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lunes, 25 de septiembre de 2017

InSciTe’s crude lignin oil is taking steps towards commercialisation

Lignin valorization is a hot topic within the biorefining sector. I guess it will be an increasingly common theme in my posts. Earlier this month, the Blog reported about the agreement between Rottneros and RenFuel to initiate deliveries of lignin to produce Lignol (lignin oil). Today, I bring the story of the Lignin RICHES project that also is working with lignin oil.

InSciTe and the Lignin RICHES project

The Chemelot Institute for Science & Technology (InSciTe) is a public-private partnership founded in 2015 by Royal DSM, Maastricht University and University Medical Center, Eindhoven University of Technology and the Province of Limburg. It is an institute knowledge driven and society oriented with the purpose of developing sustainable biomedical materials and producing biobased building blocks. With its physical nucleus at Brightlands Chemelot Campus, InSciTe enables entrepreneurship, expertise, experimentation and education in an open innovation network.

Figure 1. InSciTe’s pilot plant at Brightlands Chemelot Campus (extracted from the web page of the Brightlands Chemelot Campus). It is multi-purpose facility for scaling up the production of biobased building blocks.

InSciTe’s biobased program focuses on the production of sustainable materials and processes for marketable products and services that contribute to a circular economy. The Lignin RICHES project is part of that biobased program and it has the ambitious goal to lay the basis of the world’s first lignin biorefinery. The approach is transforming lignin into an intermediary product that they called Lignin Crude Oil (LCO) via a thermo-catalytic chemical process that was developed by the Eindhoven University of Technology. In a follow up step this LCO is fractionated and further converted to valuable products like phenol, resins and octane-boosting fuel additives.

The LCO itself is a marine fuel much more sustainable and environmentally friendly than “bunker” fuels that are currently used. In this project, the first steps are taken towards certification of LCO as marine fuel in collaboration with a shipping company and a marine engine manufacturer. Using LCO in such a way ensures a return on investment in a short time, creating additional funding to further develop the products mentioned above.

A pilot plant and a spin-off

Work is still ongoing in the Lignin RICHES project to fine-tune the LCO refining process to improve the efficiency and reduce the costs. Before LCO is ready for market, further testing and production upscaling will be carried out at InSciTe. A pilot plant is scheduled to be in operation in 2018. This plant will have a capacity of around a barrel (160 L) a day, which will allow the partners to carry out tests on quantities in the range of hundreds of kilos and provide market samples.

In May, a spin-off company called Vertoro BV, was founded by Michael Boot (leader of the Lignin RICHES project) with the aim to commercialize the process- and product-IP that is generated within the Lignin RICHES project and to assist in the R&D activities therein.

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