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Value-added valorization of lignin for optimal biorefinery of lignocellulose towards energy carriers and products

Project duration 2007 - 2010

Latest news:
Presentations Dissemination Workshop September 2010
Promo video Februari 2010
Achievements LignoValue March 2011
Final public report LignoValue

Lignocellulosic biomass offers many possibilities to become a natural resource for the chemical industry regarding its chemical composition and low costs.
To substantially increase the use of lignocellulose further development is necessary for novel thermochemical and biochemical conversion processes and integral biorefinery concepts for the co-production of chemicals, biofuels and electricity.

Lignocellulosic raw materials consist chiefly of cellulose (35-45% dry weight basis), hemi-cellulose (25-30% dry weight basis) and lignin (20-35% dry weight basis).
The cellulose and hemi-cellulose fractions can be used as a source of sugars for the fermentation of industrial chemicals as well as fuels such as bioethanol.
However this leaves a large residual amount of lignin. Traditionally, the use of lignin (for example from rest streams in the pulp and paper industry) has been as an energy source in the pulp mills. About 2% of the yearly extracted 50 Millions tonnes of lignin is used as dispersing agent or as binder. However due to the chemical nature of lignin, and in particular the presence of a large amount of functionalised aromatic structures, lignin may be an attractive raw material for aromatic compounds, reducing the need for fossil resources and CO2 emission. However the inhomogeneity, complex structure(s) and undesirable impurities (from added sulphur) that are present in lignin has limited its success as a raw material for the chemical industry.

The main goal of this biorefinery project called "LignoValue" is to valorize the lignin fraction via the production of phenols, performance products and fuel additives. This R&D project focuses on:

  1. Primary biorefinery technology for production of high quality streams of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin facilitating further production of products and energy carriers for all biomass fractions
  2. Secundary biorefinery technology for the production of phenols, performance products like resins, fuel additives, electricity and heat out of the lignin fraction
  3. Development of an integral biorefinery concept in which the developed technologies have been optimally integrated and all biomass fractions consist of an optimal quality for further refinery and valorization.

Valorization of lignin will be the key issue in the further development of biofuels production from lignocellulose. Conversion of lignin to chemical feedstocks will positively influence the economic feasibility resulting in a substantial decrease of the production costs of bioethanol. 

Conversion of lignin to chemicals will be studied via 2 thermochemical routes eg. pyrolysis and depolymerisation under supercritical conditions as depicted in the figure given hereafter. This project continues the activities of the project partners in this area.

This project is financially supported by a grant from the EOS-LT (Energy Research Subsidy) programme of the Dutch Ministery of Economic Affairs, the Hague

Project partners:

Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research (WUR-FBR; project coordinator)
Website: www.fbr.wur.nl; www.biobasedproducts.nl

Wageningen University, Department of Valorization of Plant Production Chains (WU-VPPC)
Website: www.wur.nl

University of Groningen (RUG)
Website: http://www.rug.nl

ECN Energy research Centre of the Netherlands Unit Biomass, Coal and Environmental Research
Website: www.ecn.nl

Aston University, Bio-energy Research Group, Birmingham, UK

Industrial Advisory Board:

Bayer MaterialScience AG, New Technologies, Leverkusen, Germany

BASF Nederland B.V., Process Catalysis Research, De Meern, The Netherlands

Avantium Chemical B.V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Contact person (WUR-FBR):
R.J.A. Gosselink, richard.gosselink@wur.nl