Toray and Mitsui in Thai Cellulosic Sugar Project

16.01.2017 -

Japanese companies Toray Industries and Mitsui Sugar are forming a joint venture to demonstrate the technological feasibility of manufacturing cellulosic sugar from the surplus bagasse generated at sugar mills. Bagasse is the solid material that remains after squeezing the sugarcane and is burnt in boilers at the sugar plants to recover energy as electricity.

Formed this month, Cellulosic Biomass Technology will be owned 67% by Toray and 33% by Mitsui Sugar. The newly established company is headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand, where the Japanese partners will carry out their demonstration project. Thailand is one of the world’s leading sugarcane producers and Asia’s largest exporter.

Toray said the demonstration unit is part of its research and development work to combine its water-treatment membranes with bioprocessing. According to the Tokyo-headquartered group, using water-treatment membranes in the saccharification and refining processes means 50% less energy is required to produce a high-quality, low-cost cellulose sugar from inedible biomass.

The demonstration plant will be able to handle 15 t/d of bagasse (dry weight), manufacturing about 4.2 t/d – around 1,400 t/y - of cellulosic sugar after going through the pretreatment, enzymatic saccharification and membrane separation processes. The facility will use concentration technology that employs Toray’s water-treatment membranes.

The venture known as the International Energy Conservation Technology and System Demonstration Project is being carried out under the auspices of Japanese government body New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), which is looking at the possibilities of commercializing the cellulosic sugar production system.

Cellulosic sugar can be used as a raw material for producing various biochemicals such as ethanol, lactic acid and succinic acid. Besides cellulosic sugar, the plant will also manufacture polyphenol and oligosaccharide, which can be made into livestock feed.