Domtar inaugurates commercial lignin production

The Montreal, Quebec, Canada-based firm's recently installed commercial-scale plant for lignin production, in Plymouth, N.C., will target industrial uses that could include precursor for carbon fiber production.

Canadian wood products from Domtar Corp. (Montreal, Quebec) announced March 12 that it had installed a commercial-scale lignin separation plant at its Plymouth, N.C. mill, the first U.S.-based facility of its type in more than 25 years. Production of the company's trademarked BioChoice lignin began in February, with a targeted rate of 75 metric tonnes (about 165,345 lb) per day. The plant's product is destined for a wide range of industrial applications as bio-based alternatives to petroleum-based fuels, thermoset and thermoplastics resins, and possible use as an alternative precursor for the production of industrial-grade carbon fiber.

The successful installation of commercial-scale lignin removal capacity at the Plymouth Mill is the culmination of a research and engineering project launched by Domtar in 2010. This project got a boost when the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the company a grant through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative. Domtar believes its lignin operation sets a new path for the industry and also marks the latest sustainability milestone for a company that strives to be an industry leader in forest certification and environmental stewardship.

"Our vision is to be a global leader in fiber-based innovation," says Bruno Marcoccia, Domtar's R&D director. "A big part of this is our focus on partnering with best-in-class collaborators to develop new products and markets for a wide portfolio of initiatives, like BioChoice."

"The possibilities for making a real difference in terms of offering manufacturers a bio-based alternative to the use of petrochemicals is truly exciting," says Hasan Jameel, a professor in North Carolina State University's Department of Forest Biomaterials. "This is a big win for sustainability on two counts: Domtar improves the efficiency of its pulpmaking process, and at the same time, the market gets a reliable, high-quality source of this underused material with so much potential..

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Domtar Corp. designs, manufactures, markets and distributes a wide variety of fiber-based products, including communication papers, specialty and packaging papers and adult incontinence products. The foundation of its business is a network of wood-fiber converting assets. The majority of its pulp production is consumed internally to manufacture paper and consumer products. In 2012, Domtar had sales of $5.5 billion from nearly 50 countries. The Company employs approximately 9,300 people.