April 10, 2008

Feasibility Studies of Biomass Ethanol Production to Begin

Nippon Paper Group, Inc.
Cosmo Oil Co., Ltd.

Nippon Paper Chemicals Co., Ltd., a Nippon Paper Group company, and Cosmo Oil Co., Ltd. have agreed to conduct feasibility studies of biomass ethanol production at Gotsu Mill of Nippon Paper Chemicals (located in Gotsu-shi, Shimane), the only mill in Japan where sulfite pulp is produced (*).
Biomass ethanol production requires urgent research for developing a production method using inedible cellulosic materials such as grasses or woods that are not used as food materials and will not affect food provision. One of the technical challenges that must be addressed to enable the method is overcoming the difficulty of producing sugar, a raw material of ethanol, from cellulose or hemicellulose (saccharification process).
At Gotsu Mill of Nippon Paper Chemicals, the process of sulfite pulping generates black liquor, which contains an abandance of sugar as the raw material of ethanol. This has led the two companies to recognize that studies at Gotsu Mill, focusing on the pulping and black liquor fermentation technologies of Nippon Paper Chemicals, will be a practical step forward for the production of second-generation biomass ethanol. The companies have consequently decided to conduct feasibility studies, including scrutiny of the technical challenges.
Over this year, the companies will study the cutting-edge technologies in Japan and other countries, evaluate the properties and other aspects of the black liquor at Gotsu Mill, and make preliminary evaluations of the application for saccharification, the productivity of ethanol fermentation, and other aspects. The companies also plan to identify technical issues, to bolster their competitiveness and consider the possibility of stepping up biomass ethanol production.
Summary of Study
1. Planned Period: One year from April 2008.
2. Production Site: Gotsu Mill of Nippon Paper Chemicals Co., Ltd. (Gotsu-shi, Shimane)
3. Targeted Ethanol Production Capacity: 10,000 kilo liters/year
4. Study objectives:
1) Investigate and select biomass ethanol production technologies.
2) Conduct basic engineering of demonstration plant for ethanol production. (This will be handled by Cosmo Engineering Co., Ltd., an affiliate of Cosmo Oil Co., Ltd.)
3) Conduct a profitability assessment
* Sulfite pulping method: This is one of the pulping methods and is used mainly for producing cellulose, which in turn is used to make chemical raw materials such as rayon, cellophane.