Domtar to host bio-fuel development project

Proponents in a $14 million biofuel research and development partnership between Domtar and Battelle and partly funded by the Centre For Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy (CRIBE) met April 10 at The Centre to announce the project. From left are: CRIBE’s Frank Dottori and Lorne Morrow, Ontario Natural Resources Minister Michael Gravelle, Battelle VP Energy Sustainability Solutions Charles Lucius and Domtar Director of Research and Development Bruno Marcoccia. Photo by Chris Marchand

By Chris Marchand

Dryden’s Domtar mill site will soon be a proving ground for emerging technology that turns wood waste into bio-fuel.

Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle joined high-level representatives from Domtar and private research and development institute Battelle as well as the Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy (CRIBE) to announce a $14 million partnership to try to develop a cost-effective fossil fuel alternative for transportation fuels from wood waste.

The project is based on Battelle’s fast pyrolysis technology, which uses heat to rapidly convert biomass without oxygen to produce crude bio-oil and gas. Battelle’s approach is to process the crude bio-oil into a ‘drop-in fuel’ that can be blended directly with gasoline or diesel fuel.”

Battelle says their system, which will undergo testing locally, requires far less energy to produce the same fuel product than existing fuel from wood technologies.

If successful, Domtar will blend the bio-fuel into the mill’s vehicle fleet, or use the fuel internally to offset the costs of natural gas.

Up from head office in South Carolina, Director of Research and Development for Domtar, Bruno Marcoccia says the project is indicative of the Domtar’s high level of interest in developing new uses for wood fibre.

“The mill will act as a host to a demonstration and development project,” said Marcoccia. “In the best of outcomes it will enhance the mill’s profitability. It’s a good example of how we’d like to participate in these potentially game-changing technologies. By co-locating it at an existing pulp mill we can make use of the infrastructure, skilled labour, project management people, steam and all the other utilities that become an essential component of creating the system.”

Up to $6 million in funding will come via CRIBE, a provincial government initiative with a mandate to transform the forest products industry in Northern Ontario.

CRIBE CEO Lorne Morrow says project funding was approved in a rather quick turnaround time. The project is the agency’s biggest announcement to date.

“You have a solid, anchor mill here in Dryden matched up with Battelle,” said Morrow. “I think it’s a great mix. If it gets our mills looking beyond newsprint and pulp, that’s what CRIBE’s mandate is.”

Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle adds the involvement of Battelle, an institute responsible for significant technological innovations in a variety of fields is very exciting. Battelle developed Xerox technology in the 1940s, developed the first nuclear fuel rods for power production and made breakthroughs that opened the door for the development of the compact disc and DVD.

“A world leader in terms of research and development coming up to Dryden, I think that is an indication of what an exciting development this is from a technological point of view,” said Gravelle. “This defines what the opportunities will be in the future and I think this partnership is going to lead to some very exciting things.”

The two-phase project will first use wood waste to produce high-value bio-oil. Once the process is optimized and the results demonstrated, az second phase will see the construction of a 100 ton/per day pilot plant to be integrated into Domtar’s Dryden facility.

The proponents are hopeful the project could be the beginning of cost savings for other mills as well as a potential high value revenue stream.


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