TORONTO — SunOpta BioProcess Inc., a subsidiary of SunOpta Inc., has received C$5.5 million ($5.3 million) in funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (S.D.T.C.) to assist SunOpta and its partners to build and operate an integrated cellulosic ethanol plant and co-located xylitol product facility in the Greater Toronto area.

As part of the project, the partners will build a C$17 million facility, with 67% of the funding coming from partners and 33% from the S.D.T.C. grant. The facility is expected to produce up to 620 tonnes of xylitol and 2 million liters of cellulosic ethanol per year. According to SunOpta, food grade xylitol is considered a healthy sugar substitute.

SunOpta said the facility should begin operating by December 2010, with process validation complete by December 2011. Once the project is completed, SunOpta said it plans to construct a 10,000-tonne commercial xylitol facility in connection with a minimum 40-million liter cellulosic ethanol facility beginning in September 2011. The first xylitol production from the latter facility is expected by December 2012, SunOpta said.

“SunOpta is delighted to receive support from S.D.T.C. to assist in building and operating a cellulosic ethanol and xylitol production facility that will demonstrate the commercial viability of the cellulosic ethanol and xylitol co-product technology,” said Murray Burke, president of SunOpta BioProcess. “We believe this will be the first operation of its kind in the world. This is a valuable step leading to rapid development of our biorefinery technology, culminating in economically viable commercial facilities that are expected to advance production of sustainable bioproducts, stimulate local economies and meet significant environmental objectives through water conservation and GHG reduction.”