Lignol makes progress in cellulosic ethanol, lignin development

By Susanne Retka Schill | February 13, 2013

Lignol Innovations Ltd. has landed a commercial supply agreement with a European producer of sustainable thermoplastics. The subsidiary of Lignol Energy Corp. has delivered samples of its trademarked HP-LTM lignin for evaluation and product trials and now has an agreement to supply the purified lignin by the ton.

Canadian-based Lignol has announced a number of achievements in the past few months in its cellulosic ethanol and lignin development efforts. In December, the company announced the closing of a private placement of CA$4.5 million and conversion of $2.25 million convertible debenture, which it said was intended to fund general working capital and other corporate purposes. In October, the company announced it had received notice of additional patent awards covering its lignin inventions.

"When producing next generation biofuels from renewable, nonfood feedstocks like woodchips, roughly 25 percent of the output is lignin,” said Ross MacLachlan, president and CEO, in the October notice. “Companies can burn the lignin for its calorific value of approximately five cents a pound, or utilize Lignol’s technology to realize values of 50 cents to $2 per pound as a substitute for certain petroleum-based inputs in a variety of applications, such as resins, binders, coatings, carbon fiber and thermoplastics.”

Lignol has teamed with Novozymes to optimize the use of Novozymes’ enzymes in Lignol’s cellulosic biofuel process at the company’s 100,000 liter-per-year (26,417 gallon) pilot plant in Burnaby, B.C. In September, the companies announced they had improved performance by 35 percent from previously best-achieved results. The company uses a modified solvent-based pretreatment technology that it says facilitates the rapid, high-yield conversion of cellulose to ethanol and the production of high-value coproducts such as lignin.

Lignol previously had proposed building demonstration and commercial cellulosic ethanol facilities in Colorado and by 2008 had progressed to getting a funding application approved by the U.S. DOE. Its pilot-scale facility in British Columbia started up in 2009. But, following the economic downturn, the company canceled the Colorado plans and in mid-2011, the company formally announced it would move forward without the $30 million in U.S. DOE Biomass Program funding.