Industrial Bioproducts Laboratory Moves Home to Continue Research into Converting Forestry Biomass into Liquid Fuels, Chemicals and Building Materials
Sarnia Observer (January 30, 2016) -- A tenant recently left Sarnia's Research Park and that's a good thing, according to Sarnia's mayor.
Mike Bradley, who chairs the Community Development Corporation (CDC) said it's a positive sign to see occupants moving on from the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park and make attempts at commercializing their processes.
"We welcome tenants that leave," Bradley said. "This is a good example of what this Park is about, [it] is to nurture, to invest... and to move on into the commercial sector."
"It's a good success story."
The Industrial Bioproducts Laboratory headed up by Western professor Charles Xu vacated the 80 acre Park this past September after finishing its research program.
Xu worked with about 10 master's degree and PhD students two of which moved to Sarnia from London for this project on the conversion of forestry biomass and residuals into marketable products.
"It was a great opportunity to welcome Western students to Sarnia-Lambton," said Katherine Albion, Director of the Park's Commercialization Centre.
The conversion process, Albion explained, takes items such as wood chips and lignin materials left over from pulp and paper mills and forestry operations in Northern Ontario and converts them into products such as liquid fuels, chemicals and biobased building materials.
"One of the areas where they've had success is in the development of foams and resins," Albion said.
The lab is continuing to explore how this conversion process can be incorporated into different chemical processes, so it can be used by some of the area's petrochemical and biobased companies, she noted.
Dr. Xu is based at a research facility in Ilderton called the Institute for Chemicals and Fuels from Alternative Resources, and "they'll be looking to continue that [research] work at the institute location," Albion said.
The Industrial Bioproducts Laboratory were Park tenants for four years before they left, she added, "but there has been talk of them returning in the future to develop new products and technologies back at the site here."
Soon after the lab moved out, a new tenant Lambton College's Centre for Industrial Material Development took its place.
"It's still got that material focus in that lab," Albion said, "so it worked out very well for everyone."
More than 30 tenants are currently housed at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, representing a capacity rate of 95 per cent.
"We've been fairly stable around that number for the last couple of years now," Albion said.
But only a short time ago, the Research Park established in 2003 by the County of Lambton, the City of Sarnia and Western University was less than half full.
That's a great place to be considering where we were a number of years ago, Bradley said of the current capacity rate.
Bradley touted the leadership of Research Park Executive Director Tom Strifler a former Nova executive with extensive knowledge in the biofuel and alternative fuel sectors as one of the reasons for doubling the capacity.
The Community Development Corporation who oversees management of the Research Park recently added five new members to its eight member board.
"We've got a really strong board that's very focused on moving the Park forward," Bradley said. "That in turn strengthens the Park's reputation."
- Terry Bridge, Sarnia Observer