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Group exploring technologies to commercial farm biomass to sugar process

November 13, 2014 - Government and private-sector funding is expected to move ahead proposal that could lead to the building of a commercial plant in Sarnia-Lambton to convert cornstalks and wheat stalks into sugar for use in the chemical industry.

Murray McLaughlin, executive director of Sarnia-based Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, said approximately $300,000 from the federal government’s Growing Forward 2 initiative, along with approximately $200,000 from other partners, will be used in the coming year to take a closer look at the technology and how to move it to commercial use.

The objective is to see a commercial plant developed by 2018.

Other partners in the project include the Grain Farmers of Ontario, the Cellulosic Sugar Produces Cooperative, BioAmber Inc., the Integrated Grain Producers Co-operative Inc., Jungbunzlauer Canada Inc., and Ontario Agri-Food Technologies.

This stage of the project is expected to take a year to complete.

"Basically, we're going to evaluate a number of processes that are being developed to process biomass corn stover and wheat straw into sugars, with the whole premise of trying to determine what might be the best technology for our region," McLaughlin said.

"By the end of this study we hope to be in a position where we can identify two or three technologies that would have the ability to produce sugars at the quality that we need."

Work is also being done to establish a cooperative that would look at the "early front-end stage" of collecting corn and wheat stalks to supply a plant.

"And then we would want to establish a sugar mill in the region to take that corn stover to sugar," McLaughlin said.

"Once you have sugar, you can convert those sugars to a number of different chemicals."

There will be conversations in the coming months with companies who could use the sugar to create building-block chemicals, much like the new BioAmber plant now under construction in Sarnia.

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