Lignol: Toward the vision of a net-zero chain for biofuels
The production of sustainable, next generation advanced biofuels from renewable forest waste biomass creates the conditions for a net-zero value chain for biofuels. It allows us to leverage the natural carbon cycle to power our vehicles, replace fossil fuels, and lower transport sector emissions.
Trees absorb CO2
The story of achieving third-generation biofuels’ net-zero value chain begins in the forest, where growing trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow. Inside the trees, this atmospheric carbon dioxide binds with lignin, a high-energy content polymer that gives trees their strength and rigidity.
When trees have reached maturity, they are harvested for use by the paper and packaging industry. And thanks to a commitment to sustainable forestry practices, more trees are planted in Sweden than are cut down every year. As a result, Sweden’s harvestable forest area has more than doubled in the last 100 years. Sweden’s growing forests can thus serve as a renewable source of biomass for producing sustainable, next generation advanced biofuels.
In Sweden, the vehicles and machines that harvest and transport trees to paper mills can run on fossil free biofuels or renewable electricity like wind or hydropower, serving as another low-emissions link in the next generation advanced biofuel value chain.
At the pulp mill
After the trees arrive at the mills, the wood is processed and broken down for use in making paper, cardboard, and tissue. While lignin is one of wood’s primary components, it’s considered a low-value biomass waste product of the papermaking process.
Often, lignin is simply burned to help power paper mills. However, it can also be extracted and converted into a renewable bio-oil. Thanks to RenFuel’s patented catalytic process, it only takes a couple of hours to convert one tonne of solid lignin into 1 m3 lignin-based bio-oil, Lignol®.
RenFuel’s Lignol® bio-oil is then transported to a refinery where it is refined further into gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel – in the same way as ordinary fossil-based oil. Next generation advanced sustainable biofuels produced from Lignol® can then be transported and dispensed utilizing current liquid fuel and fleet infrastructure.
At the pump
Sustainable biofuels perform just like any other fossil-based fuel. There is no need to modify existing combustion engines for sustainable biofuels to work effectively. They can thus simply and efficiently reduce the use of fossil-based fuel in traditional combustion engines, lowering the climate impact of existing vehicles. That means we can reach the transport sector emissions reduction goals of the Paris and Glasgow agreements without having to wait for new vehicles or infrastructure to be built.
Completing the carbon cycle
Lignin-based biofuels absorb as much CO2 during growth as they emit when burned. They also ensure that ancient carbon stays in the ground rather than being released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. Replacing fossil fuels with lignin-based biofuels leverages the natural carbon cycle to help power our vehicles.
The CO2 emitted by the cars, ships, and planes that burn next generation advanced biofuels simply replaces the CO2 that was absorbed by the trees that serve as the biomass from which Lignol® is derived. Lignol® thus creates a net-zero value chain for biofuels that can speed up the transition away from fossil fuels and help us reach our ambitious climate goals, faster.