Unique pilot infrastructure for innovative catalytic biorefinery of lignocellulosic material to functional bio-aromatics

In a nutshell

Today, Flanders has world-class expertise in the production of bio-aromatics from lignin and lignocellulosic biomass. Technologies for the conversion of wood and lignin into biobased aromatics have been proven at lab scale (TRL 4).

The next essential step in this technological development is the demonstration of available conversion technologies at higher scale (TRL 5-6). Yet, suitable process equipment for technology development at higher TRLs is absent and requires a unique custom-made setup differing from state-of-the-art infrastructure.

PILLAR aims to realise a unique pilot infrastructure platform. This platform for innovative catalytic biorefinery of lignin, wood and by extension any lignocellulosic material, will produce functional biobased aromatics. PILLAR will focus on:
  • a 100 L batch reactor (TRL 5) for ‘lignin-first’ biorefinery technology (PILLAR I; KU Leuven)
  • extension of the LignoValue Pilot catalytic reactor with a multi-purpose feed dissolver and solid feed injection (TRL 6) able to treat/liquify lignin (PILLAR II; VITO)

This unique pilot infrastructure will contribute to solving specific questions related to scale-up, e.g. mixing and handling of a lignocellulose slurry, catalyst stability and solvent recycling. This way, PILLAR provides necessary technological and economic proof-of-concept data and paves the way towards an industrial scale catalytic biorefinery that transforms biomass into competitive chemicals and materials, resulting in a significant CO2 capture.

The many challenges addressed in this project are supported by experienced advisory board members, i.e. Rudy Parton (GF Biochemicals) for the overall project and Kirk Torr (Scion, New Zealand) as well as Elias Feghali (Notre Dame University, Lebanon) for the multipurpose feed dissolver (PILLAR II).

Project Details

Project type: LSI in MOT1 Biobased Chemistry
Approved on: 20/12/2019
Start date: 01/01/2020 (with a maximum duration of 36 months)
Budget: €1.999.848


Related News

Lignin-first biorefinery at pilot-scale: KULeuven and MTSA Technopower finalising detailed design
For years, KU Leuven has been working on an innovative biorefinery technology to turn wood biomass into a phenolic aromatic oil and a sugar pulp, amongst others in the PILLAR project. To de-risk the technology beyond the lab scale and to facilitate application and market development with larger demonstrator samples, a trajectory towards pilot upscaling was initiated. Now, KU Leuven and MTSA Technopower have initiated the design and construction of a prototype lignin-first biorefinery pilot-scale installation. It is planned to become operational at TRANSfarm in the first quarter of 2022. For more info, visit the website of KU Leuven.


For more information about this project, please contact Isabelle Monnaie (imonnaie@catalisti.be).