Following its recent acquisition of the US-based biotechnology company Virdia, Stora Enso is investing EUR 32 million (USD 43 million) in a demonstration and market development plant to be built at Raceland, Louisiana, USA. The plant will be used for industrial validation of the newly acquired extraction and separation technology developed by Virdia that enables cellulosic biomass, such as wood or agricultural waste, to be converted into highly refined sugars. The investment serves the feasibility of the technology on industrial scale in the future, possibly also in some of Stora Enso's existing pulp mills.
The demonstration plant will be located in the vicinity of existing sugar cane plantations and will use bagasse waste as feedstock. Sugar cane bagasse is a sustainable, non-genetically-modified feedstock that does not compete with food. It will be used to produce high purity five-carbon sugars and in particular xylose. These sugars will be converted and upgraded for applications in, for example, food and personal care.
"This investment marks the next step in our strategy for new markets and applications. It will enable validation of the technology developed by Virdia and its applicability to different types of biomass. Our goal is to develop and commercialise cost-effective renewable solutions to address well-identified market-driven needs and add value to our current cellulosic streams," says Juan Carlos Bueno, EVP, Stora Enso Biomaterials.
The Raceland demonstration plant is scheduled to start production early 2017.