Adding Value to Lignin

Eddie Peace, Bioproduct Coordinator.

West Fraser Mills, Quesnel, BC.

Lignin is the natural polymer in wood that binds cellulose fibres together to give a tree its structural integrity. This abudant feedstock can be recovered from kraft black liquor and used as a “green” alternative to various petroroleum-based chemicals. Lignin represents a significant diversification opportunity for the forest to derive greater value from a residual by-product. In recent years, there has been increased interest in kraft lignin as a tree-derived source of aromatic polyol and a growing recognition of its economic potential as a ‘green’ chemical feedstock. Hinton Pulp has undertaken the installation of a 30 t/d LignoForce commercial demonstration plant within its kraft pulping operation. The construction of the plant potentially means different commercial applications being realized for lignin, however the current market for this product is not fully developed and requires substantial understanding of chemical conversions and a supply of lignin to facilitate its growth. Applications for lignin include the replacement of petroleum-based polyols used in adhesives, polyurethane foams, advanced composites, surfactants and dispersants. Here we explain the evolution of the plant and some of the challenges in this process.