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Lignin as an Ideal Source to Produce Biofuel?

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According to Innovation Origins (Germany) this week in a new report, Vertoro is Spanish for "Green Gold". The founders clearly had their end product in mind when they started thinking of a brand name. Vertoro, a spin-off from The Chemelot Institute for Science & Technology (InSciTe), valorises the technology of turning lignin, a residual stream produced by paper pulp and cellulosic ethanol plants, into so-called crude lignin oil (CLO). And this CLO is analogous to fossil crude oil, in the sense that it is not an end-product, but an intermediate for the production of fuels and chemicals. Vertoro, together with Prof. Emiel Hensen from Eindhoven University of Technology, received a Take-off grant of 40.000 € awarded by the NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences. The grant will be used to improve on and further scale up the production of CLO. Ultimately, in 2019 and 2022 a 50 ton pilot and 10.000 ton demo CLO plant, respectively, will be constructed at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen.

The idea of using lignin as a feedstock for the production of green chemicals and biofuels was first formed when Vertoro were looking for a way to overcome the problems with existing biofuels.  "At present, there is no universal biofuel," says Michael Boot, co-founder and CEO at Vertoro. "Ethanol cannot readily be used in diesel engines and biodiesel cannot be used in gasoline engines. Importantly, gasoline, as a base fuel, is of itself relatively low in octane number, thereby limiting the maximum achievable efficiency and performance of gasoline engines. Diesel, in turn, is prone to promote the formation of hazardous nitric oxide and soot emissions. We found that so-called aromatic oxygenates can help resolve these issues and might, therefore, be a promising candidate for the universal biofuel label. Given that lignin is comprised of 100% aromatic oxygenates, we believe it to be the ideal feedstock to produce such a universal biofuel."
Vertoro makes their energy "espresso" from lignin powder, which, like ground coffee beans, is a brown powder, and a relatively small amount of solvent. These are then subjected to some moderate amounts of heat and pressure. In contrast to the traditional ways of lignin conversion, the Vertoro approach does not require catalysts, acids, or even solvent recovery. The latter attribute of technology means that no boiling of the solvent is required, thereby saving on energy and leaving a relatively low carbon footprint."

More information is available by reading the full article available online.


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