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Stora Enso's ‘Lineo’ scoops ‘Best Product Innovation’ at ICIS Innovation Awards

Finland-headed forest industry major Stora Enso Oyj has scooped ‘Best Product Innovation’ at the ICIS Innovation Awards 2018. ICIS, Independent Chemical Information Service, is the world's largest petrochemical market information provider. The judges recognised the impressive potential of Stora Enso’s versatile and renewable bio-based solution made from lignin, one of the main building blocks of wood in a tree.

Lignin is a renewable wood-based, non-toxic alternative to fossil-based materials (photo courtesy Stora Enso).

Launched earlier this year, Lineo by Stora Enso can be used in a range of applications for which fossil-based materials are currently used. It is a renewable replacement for oil-based phenolic materials, which are used in resins for adhesives used in other wood-based panels such as plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), laminated veneer lumber (LVL), paper lamination and insulation material.

This is the one that clearly stands out [in this category]… it’s commercial, biobased, high impact… and the development has made it available in a stable form, said Detlef Kratz of BASF, the overall sponsor of the 2018 ICIS awards.

Given its sustainability and abundance, Kratz added, “use of lignin in any way would be a major breakthrough.”

The assessment was echoed by David Woods of ExxonMobil Chemical, bringing to bear his own experience in the biomass for chemicals area. Given its nature, he added “lignin is always a destroyer of economics. If [Stora Enso] has truly developed a free-flowing powder, then this really is a game-changer.”

And consultant Godefroy Motte added, “This is a big step and has a very large potential. If they can do it, it will solve a sustainability issue in the market [for phenolics and the like].”

Complex aromatic macromolecule

Lignin is a complex aromatic macromolecule containing a high number of phenolic, aliphatic and carboxylic hydroxyl groups and as such can be used without further chemical treatment.

Stora Enso has been producing lignin, as a dry free-flowing powder, industrially at its Sunila Mill in Finland since 2015 and the mill has the capacity to produce 50 000 tonnes of lignin per annum (photo courtesy Stora Enso).

Stora Enso has been producing lignin, as a dry free-flowing powder, industrially at its Sunila Mill in Finland since 2015 and the mill has the capacity to produce 50 000 tonnes of lignin per year – making Stora Enso the largest kraft lignin producer in the world. Conventionally, the lignin is usually discarded or burned for energy during the pulp production process.

The lignin is separated during the kraft pulping process of Nordic softwood (spruce and pine), using the Lignoboost system developed originally developed by Innventia and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. This is coupled with a ring dryer to extract a high purity kraft lignin from the black liquor stream.

The Lineo product line consists of a free-flowing brown powder which Stora Enso says opens up new application opportunities in many industries. Compared to phenol and formaldehyde it is more stable and safer alternative. It is easy to handle and has stable pricing due to backward integration, making it an ideal biobased, nontoxic alternative.

We’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response from stakeholders since launching Lineo and we’re delighted it has been recognised as an innovative solution by top chemical industry representatives. It is another key renewable solution provided by Stora Enso, remarked Markus Mannström, Executive Vice President of the Stora Enso Biomaterials division.

The powder has a high dry content and superior dispersibility and can be stored for an extended period. Stora Enso is already selling Lineo as a replacement for phenol and is looking at many other applications, as well as at increased production with extraction units at its other pulp mills.

In the future, Lineo can be developed into other types of binders and also used in carbon fibre and energy storage applications.

‘Everything made from fossil-based materials today,
can be made from a tree tomorrow’, remarked Markus
Mannström, Executive Vice President of the Stora Enso
Biomaterials division (photo courtesy Stora Enso).

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