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Report Nr. 1 on Lignin Production Situation GROWTH G1RT-CT-2002-05088 Version 1.2, Aug. 2004

Lignin Production Situation

Coordination network for lignin - standardisation, production and applications adapted to market requirements (acronym: EUROLIGN)

Type of contract:

Concerted Action / Thematic Network

Commencement date:



36 month


Agrotechnology and Food Innovation B.V. (A&F)
Dr. Ed de Jong
Bornsesteeg 59
P.O. Box 17
NL-6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
Tel. +31 317 475 000, Fax +31 317 475 347
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Participant nº 2: (Contractor)

International Lignin Institute
Alfred Abächerli
Rue du Grand-Chêne 5
CH-1003 Lausanne, Switzerland
Tel. +41 21 323 58 15, Fax +41 21 323 58 19
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The following persons have participated to this report by submitting informations to ILI within the framework of the EUROLIGNIN network

  • Göran Gellerstedt (KTH-SE)
  • Stéphanie Baumberger (INRA/INA PG-FR)
  • Wim van Rhijn (TransFurans-BE)
  • Marion Szerment (La Rochette Vénizel-FR)
  • Mario Fasching (Lenzing-AT),
  • Richard Gosselink (A&F-NL),
  • Valentin Popa (Petro Poni Institute/IMB-RO),
  • Cornelia Vasile (Petro Poni Institute/IMB-RO),
  • Carlo Bonini (Univ. Della Basilicata-IT)
  • Francesco Zimbardi (ENEA-IT),
  • Peter Käuper (Granit RD-CH),
  • Lars Stigson (Kiram-SE),
  • Emmanouil Avgerinos (NTUA-GR),
  • Ties Karstens (Rhodia-DE).


According to their chemical characteristics, commercially available lignins can be organised into three categories: Lignosulphonates, Kraft lignins and sulphur-free lignins. Lignosulphonates have relatively high sulphur content (≈5%) and are a by-product of the sulphite pulping process which represents about 5% of the world paper production. Kraft lignins are issued from the Kraft process (≈90% of paper production) and have lower sulphur content (about 1 to 2%). Sulphur-free lignins are issued from a big number of different processes of which most are not yet commercially implemented: organosolv lignins, soda lignins, hydrolysis lignins, steam explosion lignins, oxygen delignification lignins. In this last group only the soda lignins have a short term potential for industrial availability. Lignosulphonates are available at big quantities (around 1 million tons solids per year). Kraft lignins in moderate quantities from only two sources (around 100'000 tons solids per year). These lignins are suitable for many traditional lignin applications (binders, concrete plasticisers, dyestuff dispersants etc.) and are often involved in the development of many new research and development approaches with the goal of creating new markets. Nevertheless their sulphur content and the relatively high modification of their original structure in the plants (condensation, introduction of new functionalities) makes it desirable to develop new lignin types of the sulphur free type. Some hundreds of tons per annum of such sulphur free lignins of the Soda type are already commercially available and it is expected that this production is increasing quickly to several 10'000s of annual tons. These available lignins cover only a very small part of the lignin that is produced by nature every year. Even if their quantity is compared to the lignin transformed by the existing paper industry alone, the lignins used for other purposes than energy production do not exceed a few percents of the yearly quantities that are available within that industrial branch. To improve this situation it will be strategic to get rid of the present image of a low quality waste product. For this it is essential to develop reliable characterisation techniques (namely for composition and purity analysis). Furthermore, new developments involving the unique biological and chemical properties of such high purity products are necessary. On one hand, the development of new production facilities will be driven by such new technological achievement and research progress. On the other hand, new industrial lignin users will only start bigger scale commercial activities if reliable sources of adapted lignin qualities are available (in quantity and quality). To break this vicious circle, in which production and uses are mutually dependent, will be the major challenge of the coming years and decades. This can only be achieved by a co-ordinated hand-in-hand and step-by-step up-scaling of commercial and technological achievements in the lignin field. As lignin will be the key success factor for future biomass and bio fuel developments, a global development policy for lignin by a public entity like EU, including demonstration projects and public relation activities, is here recommended.