Pulp by product could be new source of revenue for forestry industry

Published: Oct. 13, 2017 at 3:14 PM EDT
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Forestry and chemistry experts discuss a new source of profit for the forestry industry.

Executive Director for the Michigan Forest Biomaterials Institute spoke with Houghton-Hancock Bureau reporter Mariah Powell about what this could mean for the Upper Peninsula economy.

"So we think that could be both; maintaining what we have and growing new jobs," said Mark Rudnicki.

A pulp by product could bring a new source of revenue to Michigan's forestry industry. Experts in forestry, chemistry, government and industry gathered this week to discuss possible uses for lignin.

"It's really been an excellent opportunity to get a number of people from both academia as well as industry together to talk about what it is we can do to help utilize what is currently and underutilized product in the forestry sector, which is the lignin," said Michigan State University Biochemistry professor Eric Hegg.

Lignin is a complex polymer produced during papermaking and at bio refineries. It is primarily burned as fuel, but could have more value if used in other ways.

"We think besides maintaining these jobs there can be other opportunities of employment in that advanced manufacturing or synthesis of lignin products," said Rudnicki.

Potential uses include a polyurethane substitute in products like Styrofoam or a biofuel. More profitable use of lignin could have a big economic impact.

"Well, if we can get more value for our forest products in this area, not just sell wood that would go to other markets, but if we can produce more higher-value products in the polymers area this would help with more jobs in the Upper Peninsula, support more families," said Michigan Technological University Chemical Engineering professor David Shonnard.

Michigan Forest Biomaterials Institute organized the Kraft Lignin Innovation Forum at Verso's Quinnesec paper mill.