Thunder Bay – The Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy (CRIBE), through funding provided by the government of Ontario together with Natural Resources Canada is investing in FPInnovations to operate a new world-class lab and demonstration plant at the AbitibiBowater mill in Thunder Bay.

CRIBE – which was established by the McGuinty government as part of its plan to improve quality of life in Northern Ontario – is providing $850,000 to this innovative new project. Natural Resources Canada is providing an additional $500,000, for a total of $1,350,000 in funding.

The only operation of its kind in North America, the lab and demonstration plant will provide a facility for companies from across the country and perhaps the world to extract lignin from their black liquor and have it tested, characterized and evaluated. In addition, this pilot scale of lignin production (100 kg per day) is vital to meet the supply requirements of end-users.

Black liquor, a by-product of the kraft pulping process is made up primarily of water, lignin, hemicellulose and chemicals. Mills typically burn their black liquor which reduces their energy costs. However extraction of lignin, early in the process, provides an opportunity to develop higher valued end uses than those traditionally provided in the normal kraft recovery process.

Potential uses of lignin are being studied and tested such as innovative chemicals and adhesives. Lignin can also be used to replace many chemicals that are currently derived from petroleum based sources. This could provide industries like the food, flavour, dye and pharmaceutical industries to name a few with a green alternative.

The lignin pilot plant is fully integrated into AbitibiBowater’s kraft mill process. By being a direct part of an operating mill facility, the plant provides a unique view into kraft pulp production. Lab technicians will be able to study the effect that variations in the kraft pulping process, including wood species changes and day to day process variability, have on the final product. This will ultimately allow FPInnovations to characterize different types of lignin and determine what the best end use for each type might be.

Natural Resources Canada is supporting this initiative through the Transformative Technologies Pilot Scale Demonstration Program.

"Canada's Economic Action Plan has delivered significant investments designed to help transform Canada's forest industry, enhance competitiveness and improve environmental performance,” said Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources Canada. “Through emerging and breakthrough technologies, new products are being developed in laboratories and then demonstrated at the pilot scale in mill settings".

“Our government is proud to invest in innovation in Northern Ontario.  Our province is leading the way, building a bio-based economy that integrates products and technologies derived from renewable resources into new, sustainable production and manufacturing processes,” said Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation Glen Murray. “This project – and others like it – will boost our economy by attracting investment and creating more and better jobs for Ontarians.”

"This is another great example of our government's two-pronged approach to the forestry industry,” said Bill Mauro, MPP Thunder Bay Atikokan. “Support for traditional employers and, at the same time, working towards the creation of a knowledge economy and new products to diversify the wealth contained within our region."

"I'm pleased to see CRIBE at the forefront of another exciting opportunity,” said Michael Gravelle, MPP Thunder Bay-Superior North. “Opportunities like this are transforming the future of our region by attracting companies from across Canada, and the world, who are eager to take advantage of our expertise right here in Thunder Bay."

 “The most interesting part of this project is the fact that this lignin is being produced in an operational setting,” said Lorne Morrow, CEO for CRIBE. “Evaluating the lignin that comes from an operating mill will allow us to examine what happens in a real world situation, this data will be invaluable to mills that might be looking to add this kind of technology across the province and country.”

“We’re very proud and optimistic about the opportunities that the lignin extraction pilot-plant and FPInnovations’ Bio-economy Technology Centre will offer in terms of product development and diversification for Northern Ontario,” stated Jim Dangerfield, Executive Vice-President, FPInnovations. “This partnership and the strong ties we’ve maintained with Lakehead University are key to keeping technology and knowledge in the North.”

''We are pleased to host this lab and pilot plant in our mill as FP Innovations and CRIBE do research to expand into new products and markets for the forest industry,” said Doug Murray, Mill Manager AbitibiBowater.

The Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy is a provincial initiative to transform the forest products industry in Northern Ontario. We're an independent, not-for-profit research corporation, with $25 million in funding provided by the government of Ontario, that partners closely with other relevant organizations to provide support to direct and turn research results and innovative business opportunities into operational realities. CRIBE will help the bio-economy to play a central role in the metamorphosis of Northern Ontario's future - creating jobs, opportunity and prosperity.

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) through Canada’s Economic Action Plan has provided $170 million over two years to help transform Canada’s forest industry and improve its long-term competitiveness. This funding is helping Canada’s forest sector take advantage of new market opportunities by researching innovative products that meet the needs of the marketplace.Budget 2011 provided for the renewal of the Transformative Technologies Research Program for one year to continue research on pre-competitive, non-proprietary Research and Development (R&D) to address the development, adaptation, and deployment of emerging and breakthrough technologies.

FPInnovations is a not-for-profit R&D and innovation world leader that specializes in the creation of scientific solutions in support of the Canadian forest sector’s global competitiveness and responds to the priority needs of its industrial and government members. It is ideally positioned to perform research, innovate and deliver state-of-the-art solutions for every area of the forest value chain, from genetics and harvesting operations to wood and paper products and beyond. 

FPInnovations’ staff numbers more than 500. Its R&D laboratories are located in Québec City, Montréal, Thunder Bay and Vancouver, and it has technology transfer offices across Canada. For more information about FPInnovations, visit: