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.

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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.