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Toray forms JV with Mitsui Sugar to demonstrate new cellulosic-sugar manufacturing process

| By Mary Bailey

Toray Industries, Inc. (Tokyo; will establish a joint venture (JV) company with Mitsui Sugar Co. for manufacturing cellulosic sugar, a raw material used for producing various biochemical products, from the surplus bagasse generated at sugar mills.   The technological demonstration is part of the research and technological development of a bioprocess using membranes that combines Toray’s water-treatment membrane and advanced biotechnologies. The membrane-based bioprocess is a technology that would enable the production of a high-quality, low-cost cellulosic sugar from inedible biomass while saving 50% energy in manufacturing by using water-treatment membranes in the saccharification and refining processes, and contributes to the realization of materials and chemical products made from inedible biomass.

The new JV will be called Cellulosic Biomass Technology Co., Ltd. (CBT), and will have headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand. Toray will hold a 67% interest in CBT, with Mitsui Sugar owning the remaining 33%.

Further, Toray and Mitsui Sugar will carry out a demonstration project for an energy-saving cellulosic-sugar production system using bagasse in Thailand under the International Energy Conservation Technology and System Demonstration Project of New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). The project is aimed at examining the possibilities of commercialization of the cellulosic-sugar production system. Thailand is one of the foremost producers of sugarcane in the world and is the largest exporter of sugar in Asia. It has been promoting biomass-based businesses, as well as research and technology development and is suitable for pursuing the demonstration project.   The demonstration plant of this project will have a capacity to handle 15 tons of bagasse per day (dry weight) and will manufacture about 4.2 tons of cellulosic sugar after going through the processes of pretreatment, enzymatic saccharification, and membrane separation. The pilot plant will employ concentration technology that uses Toray’s water treatment membranes to produce high-quality cellulosic sugar while conserving energy. Cellulosic sugar can be used as a raw material for producing various biochemical products such as ethanol, lactic acid and succinic acid, and this would enable the creation of a new supply chain from surplus bagasse to biochemical products. Further, in addition to cellulosic sugar, the plant will manufacture polyphenol and oligosaccharides, which can be made into livestock feed, using the same raw material and process.