Uses of lignin

Lignin is a renewable material made of much the same chemical building blocks as those found in petroleum-based materials. This means lignin offers a huge number of business opportunities. Its main advantage is that it reduces the carbon footprint of a manufactured product. In some applications, lignin can even improve the product.

Lignin is already being used as the glue in ecological, low-carbon plywood – an attractive choice in today’s increasingly green business environment. But lignin can also be used in industries that are new to the idea of working with wood-based materials. Plastics – an enormous market – are one example. More and more plastics manufacturers are verifying how well lignin fits their specifications. It seems lignin can sometimes improve the plastic, and it may also be a cost-competitive alternative to fossil-based materials. Another use of lignin is as the binder in asphalt. The resulting asphalt has a lower carbon footprint, and reports suggest it also has lower rolling resistance, resulting in less traffic noise.

On this page, we share some news about lignin, and list some companies that market lignin products, as well as possible uses of lignin and some suggestions for further reading.

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LignoBoost® lignin has many profitable uses.

Stora Enso

Stora Enso markets a high purity kraft lignin with great dispersibility and reactivity in chemical formulations. For more information, see Stora Enso’s web page on lignin.
Video: Lineo™ by Stora Enso – kraft lignin.

Domtar BioChoice® lignin

In 2013, Domtar started the world’s first commercial LignoBoost plant at its Plymouth mill in the USA. Domtar’s BioChoice Lignin is a USDA Certified Biobased Product. More information on Domtar’s website.

UPM BioPiva™

With its partners, the forest industry company UPM has developed a rigorously tested portfolio of bio-based lignin solutions, offering a cost-effective and tightly quality-controlled range of sustainable lignin products. More information on UPM’s website. UPM cooperates with Domtar.

Lignin in plywood

Latvijas Finieris is a leading developer, producer and supplier of birch plywood. With Stora Enso, it has developed the use of lignin instead of phenol for plywood resins. The resulting plywood products have a reduced carbon footprint, while maintaining their technical performance. This is a great example of the successful development of renewable bio-based solutions.

High-quality interior applications

Lignin has been successfully used in panels for high-quality interior applications. You can get more information on Arpa’s website, and the Wageningen University and Research website. It seems a lower carbon footprint and outstanding design go well together. As Arpa puts it: Long live the design!

Better bioplastics 

Lignin Industries (Ren Com) is a company that converts lignin into RENOL®, a lignin-based polymer that can replace fossil-based plastics. RENOL can be blended with most existing thermoplastics, and three application areas are currently being targeted: films; infill for artificial football pitches; and injection-molded products. A major benefit of RENOL-based films is that they are more biodegradable and generate zero microplastics. Another is that every kilogram of fossil-based plastic that is replaced with RENOL saves five to six kg of CO2 emissions. More information can be found on the Lignin Industries website, lignin.se.

Low-carbon car interiors

Car interior details and many other items can be made from a plastic called ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). The total world production of ABS in 2018 was around 11 million tonnes. The company Prisma Renewable Composites has developed and licensed technologies for making ABS and other high-value composites and polymers from lignin. According to Prisma, their ABS plastic replacement material costs less, has higher tensile strength, higher UV resistance and lower VOC levels than standard ABS resins. Prisma collaborates with industrial partners like Yanfeng Global Automotive Interiors, a supplier of high-quality automotive interior solutions.

Bio-asphalt

More than 1 trillion metric tonnes of asphalt is produced every year. Asphalt is typically made of 95 percent mineral aggregates and 5 percent binder. One way to reduce the carbon footprint of asphalt is to use a renewable material as the binder. Lignin has been used for this in several tests like this one, this one and this one, and Stora Enso’s Lineo™ lignin has already been used in several projects in Central Europe.  

Transportation fuels

A very fast way to reduce CO2 transportation emissions is to make fuels like the ones used today, but from renewable sources. The company RenFuel has invented a technology that transforms lignin into lignin oil, LIGNOL®.  The lignin oil can be further processed into regular diesel and gasoline. More information here.

Upgrade lignin with enzymatic technology

MetGen combines synthetic biology with chemistry and process engineering to enable better utilization of raw materials and increase the use of bio-based materials. MetGen has advanced plans for several lignin-based products, and offerings for biorefineries and fiber solutions.

Other uses of lignin

Chemical industries offer many other possible and profitable uses of lignin. Some examples are chemical products like adhesives, polymers, polyols, sizing, coating and emulsifier agents.

 

Valmet supports your lignin business

Get in touch with Valmet to get more value from your lignin faster. You can reach us through the “contact us” pages on this site or through your local Valmet office.

Stora Enso Sunila Mill - LignoBoost plant for high quality kraft lignin production

Stora Enso’s Sunila Mill produces kraft lignin with Valmet’s LignoBoost™ technology.

LignoBoost plant at Domtar's Plymouth mill in North Carolina

Domtar's LignoBoost plant at Plymouth, North Carolina, USA is integrated with the pulp mill and separates and collects lignin from the pulping liquor. This provides the Plymouth NC mill with numerous benefits. Lignin is a high-quality bio-based alternative to fossil fuel based materials. Separation of a portion of the mill's total lignin production also off-loads the recovery boiler, and allows an increase in pulp production capacity.