Lignin Biorefinery

In order to achieve the Dutch sustainable Renewable Energy Policy goal of 16 % in 2020, in a truly sustainable manner, the development of innovative biomass conversion technologies enabling to extract more total value from biomass is mandatory.

The objective of this project is to demonstrate, at laboratory and pilot-scale, the feasibility of using lignocellulosic resources, which do not compete with food resources, for the sustainable production of energy (at a base equivalent of 15 cent per KwH or 103,53 cents / Nm3), energy carriers, fuel additives, materials and chemicals via cascading biorefinery concepts. In particular lignin-rich biomass side-streams which are currently underexploited, such as municipal waste and corn stover will be used as input for the biorefinery.

A consortium consisting of Progression Industry, ADM, Essent, ECN, FeyeCon, SOPREMA and Wageningen UR Food & Biobased research (FBR) will isolate lignin from lignocellulosic side streams and further convert lignin into energy, energy carriers and materials. In case the feasibility is positively demonstrated, more future R&D activities are anticipated at the consortium partners, aiming at developing a full-scale integrated biorefinery using resources such as municipal waste, agro-side streams and side streams from the production of lignocellulosic ethanol.

The intended lignin-derived product(s) of such a biorefinery offers a unique combination of properties, that unlikely can be achieved by other biomass-based technologies

  • It is based upon well-established biomass which is not in competition with food use
  • It gives an outlet to a major biomass-based feedstock (lignin) which is still mainly regarded as a waste instead of a valuable side-stream
  • It will reduce cost prices of co-firing biomass and making co-firing of biomass more sustainable increasing the potential to replace coal.
  • It will produce biobased base chemicals
  • It will produce yet fuels or shipping fuels with lower toxicity and soot emissions due to the presence of functional oxygen groups on the aromatics
  • It will produce a renewable substitute for fossil-based bitumen, with a potential LCA improvement.

The intended technology can be economical attractive at relatively small scale (10 - 100,000 ton). Yet, when successful, the technology will create products with a potential market size of well over millions of tons per year and hence can have a major impact on achieving the Dutch sustainable Renewable Energy Policy goals.