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Feds, Quebec invest in xylitol demonstration plant


July 23, 2018
By P&PC staff

July 23, 2018 - The federal and Quebec governments have committed up to $17.4 million in investments, grants and loans to a new Fortress bioproducts subsidiary to support the construction of a xylitol demonstration plant planned for Fortress' dissolving pulp mill in Thurso, Que.

The plant is expected to cost $33 million to build. The project is being developed by the newly created Fortress Advanced Bioproducts division (FortressAB), which was established to commercialize proprietary technology for the sustainable production of xylitol and other bioproducts.

“Demonstrating xylitol production builds on the company’s Hemicellulose Project,” Chad Wasilenkoff, president and CEO of Fortress, said, “which has the goal of producing high value-added by-products from the hydrolysate separated from the liquor produced at the Fortress Specialty Cellulose (FSC) mill. We expect this to increase production, improve efficiency and create additional sources of revenue and margin for our dissolving pulp mill and our new bioproducts division.”

The board of directors of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) has approved, subject to definitive documentation, $10.4 million of funding for the xylitol project. SDTC helps Canadian entrepreneurs accelerate the development and deployment of globally competitive clean technology solutions. In addition, the Government of Quebec has agreed in principle to make a $4.99 million equity investment and a $2 million contingency loan through Investissement Québec (IQ) for a minority interest in Fortress Xylitol Inc., a FortressAB subsidiary that will implement the xylitol project. At closing, Fortress will make a matching $5.01 million equity investment and $2 million contingency loan for the project. The remaining funding required to finance the project is expected to be provided by other government sources and stakeholders, which will be announced in due course when commitments are received.

“We are extremely grateful for SDTC’s continued support and confidence in our proposed xylitol project and look forward to our partnership with IQ,” Mark Kirby, president of Fortress AB, said. “These contributions are key pieces of the $33 million of funding required. Preparatory work is underway to meet the scheduled 2020 startup date, including front end engineering design (FEED) and equipment specification for ordering long lead items. Once completed, the project will demonstrate how our proprietary technology produces low-cost xylitol with a significant reduction in greenhouse gas and other polluting emissions.”

FortressAB is commercializing its technology to convert hemicellulose sugars rinsed from wood chips into various biomaterials, with the primary product being xylitol, a low-calorie sweetener. Its process is expected to transform the FSC dissolving pulp mill into a “biorefinery” and help shift the industrial chemical industry from its traditional dependence on fossil fuels to a sustainable future based on renewable organic materials. FortressAB’s patent-pending process was developed at its pilot plant and lab facilities in Vancouver, with support from a major food products company, SDTC, the National Research Council and the British Columbia government. FortressAB’s technology aims to reduce the lifecycle GHG emissions and water consumption associated with traditional xylitol production, while also delivering a lower-cost product. The project is intended to demonstrate FortressAB’s ability to scale its technology for commercial production, and validate the economic benefits of the process, positioning Fortress to lead full-scale commercial deployment at the FSC mill and other locations around the world.


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