Toray opens Thai demo plant for cellulosic sugar-manufacturing process

Construction work on Japanese chemical maker Toray Industries’s plant in Thailand, which it jointly set up with with Mitsui Sugar Co., has been completed. The demonstration plant will be used for manufacturing cellulosic sugar, a raw material used or producing various biochemical products, from the sugar cane bagasse generated at sugar mills.

The demonstration plant was constructed at Cellulosic Biomass Technology Co., established jointly with Mitsui Sugar in January 2017.

This project is part of the Demonstration Project for an Energy-Saving Cellulosic Sugar Production System using Bagasse under the International Energy Conservation Technology and System Demonstration Project promoted by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and is the research and technological development of membrane bioprocesses that combines Toray’s water treatment membrane and biotechnologies.

Membrane bioprocess is a technology that would enable the reduction of energy for separation and refinement by using membranes in the saccharification and fermentation and to improve conversion efficiency of non-edible biomass. It will contribute to make a supply chain for various biochemicals from non-edible biomass.

The demonstration plant will use the residual bagasse as an ingredient to co-produce cellulosic sugar, which is a fermenting raw material for bioethanol, lactic acids and succinic acid, and high value added products such as polyphenol and oligosaccharide.

The plant is expected to start operations in late July 2018. By applying the membrane separation technology from Japan, the plant aims to reduce energy consumption more than 50% compared with the conventional manufacturing system, which concentrates sugar solution by evaporating water.

Going forward, Toray says it will continue running the demonstration plant till fiscal year 2022 to assess and verify the impact on energy savings, product performance, economic viability of the system, etc. Also, Toray will hold educational seminars and PR activities regarding energy-saving useful material production technologies employing polymer membrane technology to disseminate the system to Thailand as well as to the other ASEAN countries.

As part of this endeavour, Toray says it will actively pursue open innovation (collaboration and fusion) of membrane-based bioprocessing between different industries and drive forward the development of supply chain and provisioning of solutions.