Thanks to a new round of federal funding, a Canadian biofuels producer has taken a big step forward in its efforts to construct a new plant.
Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) is contributing $5.5 million to a project led by Brampton, Ontario-based SunOpta BioProcess Inc.
The money will support the construction of a demonstration plant that will produce both food-grade xylitol (a sugar substitute) and fuel-grade cellulosic ethanol from wood chips. The facility will have the capacity to produce up to 620 tonnes of xylitol and two million litres of cellulosic ethanol per year.
The plant is meant to produce biofuels in a more environmentally sustainable manner. Its integrated production process is expected to decrease process water consumption by up to 75 percent (compared to the production of corn ethanol) while keeping the lifecycle carbon benefits of cellulosic ethanol.
According to Vicky Sharpe, president and CEO of SDTC, the project is worthy of support because it minimizes waste in the biofuels production process while opening new streams of revenue.
“The generation of valuable co-products advances the economic opportunity created by the production of biofuels,” she explained.
Murray Burke, president of SunOpta, echoed her thoughts.
“Successful commercialization of biofuel production technology relies upon capturing value from all of the major components in biomass feedstock. The SDTC funding will allow SunOpta to produce biofuels from cellulose, bioenergy from lignin, and xylitol, a natural alternative sweetener and value-added product produced from xylan,” he said.
The SDTC funding complements investments made by SunOpta and members of its consortium, which includes Xylitol Canada and Emerald Forest Sugars Inc.