In June 2014, Stora Enso purchased the US-based company Virdia, a leading developer of extraction and separation technologies for the conversion of cellulosic biomass into highly refined sugars and lignin. In September 2014, Stora Enso announced plans to build a demonstration and market devel-opment plant to validate the extraction and separation technology in Raceland, Louisiana, USA. The demonstration plant, known as the B2X Plant, is the first of its kind and will utilize sugar cane bagasse, which is the biomaterial waste from sugar cane processing. This feedstock will come from the adjacent Raceland Raw Sugar Corporation sugar mill.
“The B2X Plant applies chemical and physical means to refine biomass to high purity monomeric hemicellulose sugars, high purity lignin and high purity cellulose pulp. The plant will initially implement the first part of the overall process to produce the highly refined sugar, xylose, along with de-soiled and de-ashed cellulose material that is suitable for other uses, such as energy production and pyrolysis to bio-oil,” explains Jim Biasca, Project Director for Bagasse to Xylose.
The xylose can, among other uses, be converted into xylitol, a natural sweetener, and used in a wide variety of consumer products such as chewing gums, toothpastes and mouthwashes due to its anti-cavity properties and cosmetics.
Construction of the plant started in February 2015 with earth works and has progressed through foundation and building erection. The installation of support steel and equipment started in August. The installation of additional support steel, equipment, piping, electrical, and instrumentation will begin shortly and continue into early 2016. The target for start-up of the plant is during the first half of 2016.
The technology acquired with Virdia represents substantial opportunities for Stora Enso to expand in the area of biomaterials and the B2X Plant represents one step toward realising this growth. The outcome of the B2X Plant operations and continuing technical and market development will suggest the next steps along this path.