Sappi and Borregaard celebrate 20 years of biorefinery investment


LignoTech South Africa (LignoTech) is an equal partnership joint venture between Sappi Southern Africa Limited (“Sappi”) and Borregaard AS of Norway (“Borregaard”).

The lignin extraction plant in Umkomaas, KwaZulu Natal was first commissioned in December 1998 and officially opened in 1999. The plant at LignoTech was designed to generate revenue from a previously-unused component of the effluent stream from Sappi’s Saiccor mill. These are used as binding and dispersing agents in a wide range of agricultural and industrial applications. 

Gary Bowles, Group Head Technology of Sappi Limited commented on the anniversary: “LignoTech has been a tremendous success. Sappi and Borregaard showed faith and commitment 20 years ago and have created a synergistic integration of local competencies, infrastructure and raw material with internationally-proven technology and global reach. This innovative venture continues to benefit all stakeholders. LignoTech is an example of Sappi’s commitment to work with partners to develop solutions, in particular in the exciting fields of biochemicals and biomaterials.”

Per A. Sørlie, CEO of Borregaard commented: “Borregaard is a proud co-owner of LignoTech. The partnership produces high value-added products from a local raw material, creates more than 100 jobs, generates export revenues for South Africa and has a positive impact on the environment.”

The location in South Africa was chosen because of the ready availability of a sustainable supply of raw materials, effective infrastructure, highly competent people, the relatively low cost of production and proximity to export markets via the Port of Durban. 

The success of the venture can be seen in the expansions undertaken during the 20 years. The plant was expanded three times since inception, in 2003, 2008 and in 2017. Throughout the plant’s existence small and medium suppliers have benefited as contractors and sub-contractors. Thousands of temporary jobs were created through the expansion projects. 

Mark Antonie, LignoTech South Africa GM commented: “We are very proud that the business has grown from the initial 55kt p.a. plant and has matured into one of the largest lignosulphonate manufacturers globally producing high quality products. LignoTech South Africa’s output is sold in South Africa and exported to countries in Africa, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and South America and is used in a range of applications including dust suppression, concrete additives, pelleting agents in animal feeds and mineral granulation aids to name a few.”

About Sappi Limited

A global leader in paper, paper pulp and dissolving wood pulp solutions, Sappi Limited (SAP - listed and in the Top 40 on the JSE), is headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa; has over 12,000 employees; manufacturing operations on three continents, in seven countries (nine mills in Europe, three mills in America and four mills in South Africa) and customers in over 150 countries worldwide.

Sappi works closely with customers to provide relevant and sustainable paper, paper pulp, dissolving wood pulp and biomaterial products and related services and innovations. Our market-leading range of paper products includes: coated fine papers used by printers, publishers and corporate end-users; packaging and speciality papers used by FMCG companies for foodstuffs, cosmetics, household and other industries, casting release papers used by suppliers to the fashion, textiles, automobile and household industries; and in our Southern African region newsprint, uncoated graphic and business papers, premium quality packaging papers and paper grade pulp. Our dissolving wood pulp products are used worldwide by converters to produce viscose fibre, pharmaceutical products as well as a wide range of household and consumer products. 
In FY2018 we produced approximately: 5.7 million tons of printing and writing, speciality and packaging paper; 2.3 million tons of paper pulp, and 1.4 million tons of dissolving wood pulp.
We have focused investments in developing our biomaterials (nanocellulose, fibre composites and lignosulphonate) and biorefinery (second generation sugars and bio-energy) businesses. 
We continue to grow into a profitable and cash-generative diversified business with an exciting future in woodfibre, a renewable resource.

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Borregaard (BRG Oslo) operates the world's most advanced biorefinery. By using natural, sustainable raw materials, Borregaard produces advanced and environmentally friendly biochemicals, biomaterials and bioethanol that replaces oil-based products. The Borregaard Group has 1,097 employees in 16 countries and a turnover in 2018 of approx. NOK 4,785 million (US$560 million) with sales to close to 100 countries worldwide. The lignin business constitutes close to 50% of the Group’s turnover with manufacturing plants in seven countries.

About lignosulphonate:

The lignosulphonates produced at LignoTech South Africa are used as binding and dispersing agents in a wide range of agricultural and industrial applications, many of them every day applications that affect the lives of every one of us. Biodegradable and non-toxic to both humans and animals, lignosulphonates are the perfect industrial and agricultural additive. Lignosulphonates are the end product of an advanced lignin extraction process.
Lignin is a natural binding agent found in timber and is released during the pulping process. The released material is enhanced by a process of evaporation, chemical modification and spray drying.

Source: Sappi