Flanders' first and only pilot line of bio-aromatics from lignin/wood

Recently, Biorizon co-initiator VITO and partners have launched the EFRO LignoValue Pilot project. By Q1 2021, this € 4.3 million project must result in a functioning pilot line in Flanders for the production of bio-aromatics from lignin/wood. The pilot meets the needs of various companies that have expressed an interest in innovative molecules and a willingness to carry out application testing.

"I'm quite convinced that this investment in the port of Antwerp, will eventually offer our companies the opportunity to develop new products, based on these new innovative molecules. Once again does Flanders reinforce its long standing partnership with the chemical sector."
(Minister Philippe Muyters – Flanders’ Minister of Work, Economy, Sports and Innovation)

Providing companies with significant amounts of bio-aromatics

The applicability of the majority of the investigated and developed technologies for the conversion of wood and lignin into biobased aromatics and the subsequent fractionation into useful fractions of lignin-based monomers, dimers and oligomers has already been proven at labscale. The demonstration of available conversion and fractionation technologies at relevant scale (TRL 5-6) is the next essential step.

The investment in and the design and construction of the LignoValue Pilot with a capacity of ± 200 kg/day will enable companies to take the necessary steps forward in their application development trajectory. The aim is to design the envisioned pilot line as flexible as possible to demonstrate different depolymerization processes in order to produce the desired bio-aromatic fractions for company-targeted applications/product development. The pilot is designed to be mobile, ensuring that interested companies can host and experience the performance at their own site.

Setting up this pilot line contributes to the ultimate goal: building and operating a demo plant in Flanders for the conversion of wood/lignin to biobased functionalized aromatics.

Bridge the gap between development and implementation

In recent years, relatively much knowledge has been developed and progress has been made in the field of bio-aromatics. VITO is involved in a large number of projects involving the conversion of lignin and wood to bio-aromatics, like Catalisti projects ‘MAIA’ and ‘ARBOREF’, the Interreg project ‘BIO-HArT’, and the BBI projects ‘SmartLi’ and ‘LigniOx’. To prepare the LignoValue Pilot project , a recent Catalisti study – entitled ‘BioAromatics Feedstock and Technology Assessment (BAFTA) – is being executed in which VITO and KULeuven are performing a thorough landscape analysis of technologies available all over the world for the direct conversion of wood and the depolymerization of lignin into biobased aromatics and insights are gained in the most preferential depolymerization technologies based on a number of well-defined criteria (e.g. TRL level, level of sustainability, yield, etc.).

Jan Van Havenbergh, Managing director Catalisti, is very pleased with this new project: “Bringing innovations to higher Technology Readiness Levels is of the utmost importance for the Flemish chemical industry to bridge the gap between development and implementation to allow an economic valorisation in Flanders (and abroad). The pilot line on bio-aromatics that VITO and its partners Jacobs Belgium and VMH will construct in the recently approved EFRO project will allow end users to obtain functionalised biomolecules with an aromatic structure for developing their new applications and products.”

European Regional Development Fund

The development of the pilot facility in the LignoValue Pilot project was approved by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The total budget of the project is € 4.3 Mio, with cofinancing from ERDF, the province of Antwerp and the Flemish Department of Economy, Science and Innovation. VITO will invest around two million euros. The project is also actively supported by Catalisti, the Flemish spearhead cluster for chemistry and plastics, as it perfectly fits in its strategic research program on bioaromatics.

Biorizon: profitable and sustainable prospect for the chemical industry

The project is part of the Biorizon collaboration, in which VITO, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands (ECN) are, are cooperating with partners to develop technologies for extracting aromatics from vegetable residuals. This reduces dependence on petroleum and leads to reduced CO2 emissions. By using waste streams as a raw material, Biorizon is contributing to the transition to a circular economy and offering the chemical industry and the supplying industry a prospect that is both profitable and sustainable.

Call for participation: application testing, feedstock testing & building a demo plant

If you want to receive more information on the LignoValue Pilot project or if you want to elaborate on the opportunities of lignin valorization for your organization, please contact Dr. Kelly Servaes via kelly.servaes@vito.be or +32 (0)4 93 31 87 46.

Specifically, we are looking for:

  • companies that have an interest in innovative molecules and a willingness to carry out application testing;
  • feedstock providers that want to test their product in the pilot line;
  • companies that have an interest in building together a demo plant for the production of bio-aromatics from lignin in Flanders.