Concerns about the negative effects of the use of fossil resources for chemicals and energy are driving the transition of our current fossil-based economy towards a more sustainable biobased one. An essential element in the envisioned bioeconomy is the efficient conversion of renewable non-food resources into chemicals in biorefineries, in order to reduce our dependency on fossil resources and to reduce the carbon footprint of many production processes. The cross-border region of Flanders, The Netherlands and North-Rhine Westphalia – the so called “BIG-Cluster region” is Europe’s leading industry region with a notably strong chemical industry. Aromatics represent a significant share of today’s chemical building blocks used for a wide variety of applications in the field of polymers, adhesives, coatings, resins, surfactants, anti-oxidants and cosmetics – just to name a few.
In ALIGN we focus on upscaling three extraction processes that lead to both a high-value lignin fraction and a pure cellulose/sugar fraction: The LX process (LXP), a Organosolv process combined with base-catalysed depolymerisation (BCD) and the lignin-first process (LFP). The lignin fractions derived from the three processes differ in their composition in regard to the degree of depolymerisation and functionalisation. Starting with this broad range of different lignin derivatives combined with tailor-made downstream processing (DSP) strategies, a wide variety of bio-based aromatics with unique properties can be produced. We aim at applying these bio-based aromatics as phenolic resins for the production of high-pressure-laminates as well as natural vanillin for food and beverages. To foster an industrial implementation the consortium covers stakeholders from the whole value chain starting from lignin extraction (Fraunhofer CBP, LXP Group, KU Leuven) via DSP (VITO) to application (UPM, Axxence, Phytowelt) under the coordination of CLIB. Apart from the above mentioned ones, the processes can be adjusted in future projects for a wide variety of applications in the aromatics sector from fine chemicals to bulk products.