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Swedish breakthrough in the development of biofuels

Sweden can be one step closer to a fossil-free fleet. This since the BioLi2.0 research project on a pilot scale managed to produce lignin-based biofuels that could work in common engines and be produced in existing oil refineries.

Photo: Oscar Lövner
Photo: Oscar Lövner

Already today forest raw materials are used for the production of biofuels. In line with the transition to a fossil-free society, the need for bio-based raw materials increases, which has led to research on the utilisation of lignin.

The wood raw material lignin is found in abundant quantities. Around 20-30 percent of the tree consists of lignin which becomes a residual product in paper and cardboard manufacture. The lignin contained in black liquor is today recycled primarily as energy in the pulp mill but has great potential to be used for both fuels and materials.

A research team from RISE and industry partners has now managed to extract and upgrade lignin into a product that can be mixed with today's fossil-based fuels. Trials with up to 30 percent intermixture have proven to be possible to co-refine with fossil raw materials. Since the lignin can be entered as a partial stream of fuel production, it is possible to utilise existing equipment at the refinery. We therefore have good potential to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and at the same time be able to utilise existing investments in equipment.

Progress has also been made in another part of the BioLi2.0 project. This concerns scaling up a process for producing odourless lignin. The familiar smell of pulp mill may have been the biggest obstacle for replacing fossil-based adhesives and chemicals in, for example, interior materials.

“If we succeed in scaling up, this would be a way to quickly introduce lignin-based products. We also estimate that it would be relatively easy to adjust existing facilities with the new technology,” says Marie Anheden, project manager for BioLi2.0. Trials on a tonne-scale will now be carried out in RISE test and demo facility in Bäckhammar.

“Now that we are halfway through the project, we can see that many good results have been produced. The important thing now is to produce and test in larger volumes and to compile everything from a value chain perspective. Our ambition is also to look at sustainability issues at an overall system level for Sweden. What does it take to take out lignin and make products instead of making electricity from it today? The new green fuels and chemicals are likely to change the major flows in the forest industry.

Project BioLi2.0 is an initiative within the BioInnovation strategic innovation programme. BioInnovation is founded by the Forest Industries, IKEM and TEKO. The programme is financed by Vinnova, the Energy Agency and Formas, as well as stakeholders from industry, academia, institutes and the public sector.

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Marie Anheden
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