A sweet future for biochemicals

In South Africa, we’re using our leveraging our novel Xylex technology – acquired in 2017 – to progress the extraction of sugars from woodfibre to produce xylitol and furfural.

About xylitol

A low-calorie sweetener, xylitol has positive dental properties and produces no insulin response and is suitable for diabetics. 

About furfural

Furfural was one of the first biorenewable chemicals produced from biomass and has an established and growing market, where it competes with oil-based chemicals. It’s used as a solvent for refining lubricating oils, as a fungicide and weed killer and in the production of tetrahydrofuran, an important industrial solvent. 

About our developments in these fields

In August 2019, we moved into the second phase of our sugar extraction project at Ngodwana Mill with the commissioning of the pre-hydrolysis liquor (PHL) evaporator. This is to demonstrate industrial-scale operability of the technology to concentrate hemicellulose sugar streams, extracted from the wood to levels required for downstream technologies. The work enables de-risking full-scale implementation of the sugar concentration technology which opens up new revenue generation opportunities in the xylitol and furan chemistry value chains.

Looking forward, a furfural pilot plant will be established at Saiccor Mill to illustrate the technology, produce commercial samples and provide greater clarity on process economics. We anticipate beneficial operation before 2022.