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The indepent Flemish research organization VITO and partners have presented a plan to build a pilot plant in Antwerp for the production of bio-aromatics from lignin/wood. The € 4.3 mln EFRO LignoValue Pilot project is planned to be functional by the first quarter of 2021.
Editorial office / Antwerp

At lab scale, most of the investigated and developed technologies for the conversion of wood and lignin into biobased aromatics and the subsequent fractionation into useful fractions of lignin-based monomers, dimers and oligomers have already been proven. With a capacity of ± 200 kg/day, the pilot plant will enable companies to take the necessary next steps for their application development trajectory.

Mobile and flexible

The envisioned pilot line will be designed to be mobile and as flexible as possible, ensuring that interested companies can host and experience the performance of different depolymerization processes at their own site. The ultimate goad is to build and operate a demo plant in Flanders for the conversion of wood/lignin to biobased functionalized aromatics.

The plant will be cofinanced by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the province of Antwerp and the Flemish Department of Economy, Science and Innovation. VITO will invest around two million euros. The project is also actively supported by Catalisti, the Flemish spearhead cluster for chemistry and plastics. ‘Bringing innovations to higher Technology Readiness Levels is of the utmost importance for the Flemish chemical industry to bridge the gap between development and implementation to allow an economic valorisation in Flanders and abroad’, says Jan Van Havenbergh, Managing director of Catalisti.

Progress made

In recent years, relatively much knowledge has been developed and progress has been made in the field of bio-aromatics. The project is part of the Biorizon collaboration, in which VITO, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands (ECN) are, are cooperating with partners to develop technologies for extracting aromatics from vegetable residuals (waste streams). VITO is involved in a large number of projects involving the conversion of lignin and wood to bio-aromatics, like Catalisti projects ‘MAIA’ and ‘ARBOREF’, the Interreg project ‘BIO-HArT’ and the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) projects ‘SmartLi’ and ‘LigniOx’.

A Catalisti study, entitled ‘BioAromatics Feedstock and Technology Assessment (BAFTA), is currently being executed in which VITO and KULeuven are performing a thorough landscape analysis of technologies available all over the world for the direct conversion of wood and the depolymerization of lignin into biobased aromatics.

Looking for partners

VITO is building the plant with its parners Jacobs Belgium and VMH. It is however still looking for companies that have an interest in innovative molecules and a willingness to carry out application testing, as well als feedstock providers that want to test their product in the pilot line and companies that have an interest in building a demo plant together for the production of bio-aromatics from lignin in Flanders. For more information, contact dr. Kelly Servaes of VITO via e-mail or phone: or +32 (0)4 93 31 87 46.