Lignin Demonstration Plant at AbitibiBowater's Thunder Bay Mill in Operation

(l-r) FPInnovations employees Lou Morrow and Peter Holt-Hindle examine one of the lignin reaction vessels, part of the lignin demonstration plant at AbitibiBowater's Thunder Bay facility.

May 11, 2011 - FPInnovations in partnership with the Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio Economy (CRIBE), Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) and AbitibiBowater is now producing its first batches of operational lignin for Canadian researchers.

Lignin is a residual substance from the pulping process which is a key component for the developing commercially viable fossil fuel alternatives.

These partners will develop a world-class black liquor and lignin evaluation centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario. At the core is the lignin demonstration plant, a state-of-the-art piece of equipment that ties directly into the black liquor stream of AbitibiBowater's Thunder Bay kraft pulp mill. When fully operational, this unique demonstration plant will produce up to 100 kg of lignin per day, which will be shipped to a network of R&D labs across Canada that are developing novel uses for wood products.

Also on site is a lignin characterization lab, which currently employs three people, and will be increased up to six people as capacity grows. Lakehead University and its Biorefining Research Initiative will be closely linked to the ongoing research and will be training students and postdoctoral fellows at the facility.

The potential market for lignin-based products is massive; lignin can be used as a green alternative to many petroleum-derived substances, such as fuels, resins, rubber additives, thermoplastic blends, nutra- and pharmaceuticals, etc.

"It is with cutting-edge technologies and strong partnerships such as this one that FPInnovations is contributing to building the future of forestry in Canada," said Pierre Lapointe, President and Chief Executive Officer for FPInnovations. "The strong ties to Lakehead University are key to keeping technology and knowledge in the North. This only strengthens Lakehead's Biorefining Research Initiative and other related science programs by creating linkages with labs across Canada."

"The lignin evaluation plant provides us an opportunity to move wood-based products beyond traditional markets. We are pleased to have this innovative lab at our mill site and look forward to continued progress," stated Doug Murray, General Manager of AbitibiBowater's Thunder Bay Operations. "We feel very fortunate to be part of this initiative."

"This is an exciting project to be involved with and it is right up CRIBE's alley. Whenever you create alternatives to fossil fuels, you create solutions for generations to come. Our wood basket has the potential to be more valuable than ever, but it is essential that we capitalize on important R&D opportunities like this one to maintain our competitive edge," said Frank Dottori, Chair of CRIBE.

The Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy is a provincial initiative to transform the forest products industry in Northern Ontario. We're an independent, not-for-profit research corporation, with $25 million in funding provided by the government of Ontario, that partners closely with other relevant organizations to provide support to direct and turn research results and innovative business opportunities into operational realities. CRIBE will help the bio-economy to play a central role in the metamorphosis of Northern Ontario's future - creating jobs, opportunity and prosperity.

FPInnovations is a not-for-profit R&D and innovation world leader that specializes in the creation of scientific solutions in support of the Canadian forest sector's global competitiveness and responds to the priority needs of its industrial and government members. It is ideally positioned to perform research, innovate and deliver state-of-the-art solutions for every area of the forest value chain, from genetics and harvesting operations to wood and paper products and beyond.

FPInnovations' staff numbers more than 500. Its R&D laboratories are located in Quebec City, Montreal and Vancouver, and it has technology transfer offices across Canada.

SOURCE: FPInnovations