Techno-economic analysis and supply chain design for a forest biorefinery to produce value-added bio-based products from lignin
Doctor of Philosophy
DisciplineNatural Resources Management
Depolymerized kraft lignin
Value-added bio-based products
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By far, several commercial projects for production of lignin-based chemicals started operations around the world. For instance, the LignoBoost process was installed by Domtar in 2013 in the United States, and in 2015 by Stora Enso in Finland. Lather, in 2016, the LignoForce system came into operation at West Fraser in Canada. These commercial initiatives show that lignin has proven its potential as an alternative to petroleum, to reduce emissions and generate a new stream of revenue in the forestry sector. Lignin deems to be a suitable feedstock for energy generation or value-added bioproducts as substitutes to petroleum-based products. However, lignin’s characteristics (specifically large molecular weights and low reactivity) limit its direct use as chemicals to substitute petroleum-derived chemicals. More than 30 years of research towards lignin modification have shown that depolymerization is one of the promising routes to achieve its high-value applications in chemicals. A novel depolymerization process using low-pressure and low-temperature has been developed by Dr. Xu’s group – from the laboratory-scale production of depolymerized lignin (DL) to value-added applications of DL for bio-based materials (patent pending). In this process, kraft lignin (KL) is depolymerized using sodium hydroxide as catalyst and ethylene glycol as solvent. The depolymerized kraft lignin (DKL) products have suitable characteristics, such as high hydroxyl a moderately low weightaverage molecular weight, for synthesis of biopolymers. The DKL can substitute up to 75% phenol in the manufacture of phenol-formaldehyde resins (PF) and up to 50% in the formulation of polyurethane (PU) foams. The next logical step is to assess the feasibility of this technology. Therefore, the general purpose of this research is to develop a technoeconomic analysis and a supply chain (SC) design to identify the most promising technical and economic aspects of commercial production and long-term feasibility of bio-based value-added chemicals and materials from KL.