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Biological upgrading of lignin in black liquor

  • Project Leaders: Lindsay Eltis, Douglas Singbeil
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $500862
  • Program/Competition: GeneSolve
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2019
  • Status: Closed

BC pulp and paper industry needs innovative technologies to remain competitive and sustainable. A large decline in the demand for newsprint and other traditional paper products, as well as international competition, has put the industry under tremendous pressure in recent decades. This coincides with burgeoning demand across the entire economy for environmentally-sustainable biomaterials.

These challenges can be addressed by next generation biorefineries that convert woody biomass to high value products, such as fuels, commodity and feedstock chemicals, and biomaterials. However, economic viability of such biorefineries needs to be validated. This project aims to develop processes that will lead to valorization of lignin in black liquor – a waste stream of the pulp and paper industry. The project team from BC Pulp and Paper Bioproduct Alliance, an alliance between UBC, seven pulp and paper companies from BC and FPInnovations, plans to fractionate lignin into well-defined feedstocks that will be eventually converted into precursors for adhesives, foams, coatings, and commodity chemical using physical, chemical and biological means. The latter would use genomics approaches to identify degradation pathways in soil bacteria for lignin depolymerization products.

The sector partners of the project, FPInnovations, Domtar, West Fraser and Harmac, will be able to use the genes and pathways identified during the project to develop and commercialize processes to valorize woody biomass. The knowledge and innovations emerging from this project will address pressing needs of the BC’s forest industry, to drive its sustainability, growth, productivity, and global competitiveness.