Sappi invests in sugar separations and clean-up technology to strengthen its renewable bio-chemicals offering

JOHANNESBURG, 01 September 2017

Sappi Limited is pleased to announce that it will bolster its biorefining expertise through the acquisition of the Xylex® and Versalac® technologies owned by Plaxica Limited. The transaction will result in Sappi acquiring the sugar clean up technologies which includes the patents, knowhow, equipment and key technical staff of Plaxica. The size of the transaction does not require regulatory disclosure.

Since 2013, Sappi has advanced its efforts to expand its biorefining expertise. Part of the strategy is to extract and clean-up C5 hemicellulose sugars from our Pre-Hydrolysis Kraft (PHK) liquors for further value add to higher value products.  Commenting on the transaction, Louis Kruyshaar, Executive Vice President of Sappi Biotech said “Plaxica’s Xylex® solution is rated as one of the most advanced to offer optimum efficiency and economics for separation and clean-up of C5 sugars from pulp mill hydrolysates. ”

The technology acquisition follows Sappi’s successful commissioning of a demonstration extraction unit at its Ngodwana Mill in South Africa during April 2017 to extract a sugar rich prehydrolysate stream from the PHK pulping process. The next step towards the production of clean sugars involves the clean-up of the PHK liquor or hydrolysate to separate the xylose-rich sugars from the lignin.

Sappi has a high degree of confidence that its hydrolysate extraction capabilities together with the proprietary low cost Xylex® technology will enable Sappi to realise its stated objective to participate in the downstream value chains which include Furfural, Glycols and Xylitol. 

Phil Goodier, CEO of Plaxica Limited commented as follows: “This acquisition is an excellent outcome for Plaxica and our technology team.  We have been working with Sappi for four years and have already built strong relationships with our new colleagues.  All of us look forward to contributing to the successful commercialisation of Xylex® as part of Sappi.”

Plaxica Limited is a UK technology licensing company founded in 2008 as a spin-out from Imperial College, London. It is situated in the Wilton Technology Centre in the UK.



About Sappi Biotech

Sappi Biotech was born in 2016 as a natural progression from our existing portfolio of (then) by-product businesses, complemented by corporate development work in the bio-products arena. The decision to formalise Biotech as core Sappi business was driven by the market on the one hand (Sappi is responding to consumer trends for renewable products) and the business’ strategic need to continue to innovate in new growth segments. At Sappi our goal today is to diversify into these adjacent market segments which aim to extract more value from trees and in doing so effectively strengthens the overall core business model.

Sappi Biotech is a division of Sappi Limited, a global leader in paper, paper pulp and dissolving wood pulp solutions, Sappi Limited (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 (seven 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; 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 FY2016 we produced approximately: 5.4 million tons per year of graphic and printing paper and packaging and speciality paper; 2.3 million tons per year of market paper pulp, and 1.3 million tons per year of dissolving wood pulp.

We continue to grow into a profitable and cash-generative diversified business with an exciting future in woodfibre, a renewable resource.

For further information:


For further information

Louis Kruyshaar
Executive Vice President, Sappi Biotech

Tel +27 11 407 8236

Marjolein Vile
Corporate Communications Manager

Sappi Europe
Tel +32 2 6769 786
Mobile +32 497 59 35 53


Issued by

Andre Oberholzer
Group Head Corporate Affairs

Tel       +27 11 407 8044
Mobile +27 83 235 2973