Sappi invests in sugar separations and clean-up technology to strengthen its renewable bio-chemicals offering

Sappi Ltd., Johannesburg, South Africa, says it has bolstered its biorefining expertise by acquiring the Xylex® and Versalac® sugar clean-up technologies owned by UK-based Plaxica Ltd. The transaction includes the patents, knowhow, equipment and key technical staff of Plaxica. No financial details were given.

Since 2013, Sappi has advanced its efforts to expand its biorefining expertise. Part of the strategy is to extract and clean up C5 hemicellulose sugars from its pre-hydrolysis kraft (PHK) liquors to add further value to higher-value products. Louis Kruyshaar, EVP of Sappi Biotech said “Plaxica’s Xylex solution is rated as one of the most advanced to offer optimum efficiency and economics for separation and clean-up of C5 sugars from pulp mill hydrolysates.”

The acquisition followed Sappi’s successful commissioning of a demonstration extraction unit at its Ngodwana mill in South Africa during April 2017 to extract a sugar-rich pre-hydrolysate stream from the PHK pulping process. The next step towards the production of clean sugars involves the clean-up of the PHK liquor or hydrolysate to separate the xylose-rich sugars from the lignin.

Sappi said it is confident that its hydrolysate extraction capabilities together with the proprietary low-cost Xylex technology will let it realize its stated objective of participating in the downstream value chains which include furfural, glycols and xylitol.

Plaxica Ltd. is a UK technology licensing company founded in 2008 as a spin-off from Imperial College, London. It is in the Wilton Technology Centre in Redcar, UK.

Sappi Biotech was formed in 2016 from its then-existing portfolio of by-product businesses, complemented by its corporate bio-products development work.

Sappi Biotech, www.sappi.com/biomaterials.

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