Sappi to locate ground-breaking nanocellulose pilot plant at Brightlands Chemelot Campus in the Netherlands

Company to proceed with a pilot-scale plant for low-cost Cellulose NanoFibrils production

  • Sappi choses Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Sittard-Geleen, the Netherlands, after global review of potential sites
  • Brightlands Chemelot Campus is a R&D and teaching campus focused on performance materials, biomedical materials and bio-based materials
  • Pilot plant builds on technology developed by Sappi and Edinburgh Napier University
  • Pilot plant will test the manufacturing of dry re-dispersible Cellulose NanoFibrils (CNF) and determine options for commercial production
  • Nanocellulose has potential to be used in a huge range of applications
  • Continues Sappi’s move into new and adjacent business fields based on renewable raw materials

Sappi Limited, a leading global producer of dissolving wood pulp and graphics, speciality and packaging papers, is pleased to announce that it will build a pilot-scale plant for low-cost Cellulose NanoFibrils (nanocellulose) production at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Sittard-Geleen in the Netherlands. The pilot plant is expected to be operational within nine months.

Commenting on the decision, Andrea Rossi, Group Head Technology, Sappi Limited, explained that the pilot plant will help with Sappi’s move into new adjacent business fields based on renewable raw materials. Sappi’s strategy includes seeking growth opportunities by producing innovative performance materials from renewable resources. The raw material for the pilot plant would be supplied from any of Sappi’s Saiccor, Ngodwana and Cloquet dissolving wood pulp plants. The pilot plant is the precursor for Sappi to consider the construction of a commercial CNF plant.

He goes on to say “the pilot plant will test the manufacturing of dry re-dispersible Cellulose NanoFibrils (CNF) using the proprietary technology developed by Sappi and Edinburgh Napier University. The location of the pilot plant at Brightlands Chemelot Campus provides Sappi with easy access to multiple partners with whom Sappi will seek to co-develop products that will incorporate CNF across a large variety of product applications to optimise performance and to create unique characteristics for these products.

The CNF produced by Sappi will have unique morphology, specifically modified for either hydrophobic or hydrophilic applications. Products produced using Sappi’s CNF will be optimally suitable for conversion in lighter and stronger fibre-reinforced composites and plastics, in food and pharmaceutical applications, and in rheology modifiers as well as in barrier and other paper and coating applications.

Speaking on behalf of Brightlands Chemelot Campus, the CEO Bert Kip said “We’re proud that a globally leading company like Sappi has chosen our campus for their new facility. The initiative perfectly fits with our focus area on bio-based materials and our new pilot plant infrastructure.”

In December 2014, Sappi and Edinburgh Napier University announced the results of their 3 year project to find a low cost energy-saving process that would allow Sappi to produce the nanocellulose on a commercially viable basis – and importantly without producing large volumes of chemical waste water associated with existing techniques. At the time, Professor Rob English, who led the research with his Edinburgh Napier colleague, Dr. Rhodri Williams, said “What is significant about our process is the use of unique chemistry, which has allowed us to very easily break down the wood pulp fibers into nanocellulose. There is no expensive chemistry required and, most significantly, the chemicals used can be easily recycled and reused without generating large quantities of waste water.

Math Jennekens, R&D Director at Sappi Europe who is the project coordinator and will oversee the pilot plant, said “We are very excited to be able to move from a bench top environment into real-world production. Our targeted run-rate will be 8 tons per annum. We will produce a dry powder that can be easily redispersed in water. The nanocellulose is unmodified which makes it easier to combine with other materials. The product will be used to build partnerships to test the application of our nanocellulose across the widest range of uses.”

He went on to thank the Government of the Province of Limburg in the Netherlands for their significant support and financial contribution towards the establishment of the pilot plant.


About Sappi

South African headquartered Sappi, a leading global producer of dissolving wood pulp and graphics, speciality and packaging papers, uses research and development to drive product innovation and to develop new uses for its renewable resource (woodfibre) as well as for the biomass and other residues from its production processes. One such area of investigation is nanocellulose; a new forest products material which Sappi believes will play a key role in its future suite of products, both as a product in itself and in its applications.

Brightlands Chemelot Campus

At Brightlands Chemelot Campus, research and development are performed and education is provided in the field of chemistry and materials, and related life sciences. The focus is on performance materials, biomedical materials and bio-based materials. The campus is developing into a creative breeding ground for innovation and new businesses, with thousands of highly-trained workers. This dynamic has been created in part through collaboration between the business community, educational and knowledge institutes, and the authorities. The campus provides an active contribution through activities such as facilitating the construction of pilot plants and accelerating new business development. Chemelot Campus collaborates with Maastricht Health Campus under the name Brightlands. Brightlands also relates to the research program of Maastricht University, Zuyd Hogeschool and the Province of Limburg.


Issued by
on behalf of Sappi Limited
Tel +27 (0)11 502 7300
Andre Oberholzer
Group Head Corporate Affairs
Sappi Limited
Tel + 27 11 407 8044
Mobile + 27 83 235 2973

For further information

Marjolein Vilé
Manager Corporate Communications
Sappi Europe
Tel +32 2 676 97 86
Mobile +32 497 59 35 53

Klaas Bos
Communications Manager
Brightlands Chemelot Campus
Tel +31 6 1091 8196


Sappi, press release, 2015-03-11.


Brightlands Chemelot Campus (NL)
Edinburgh Napier University
Provincie Limburg (NL)
Sappi Fine Paper Europe


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