Soon you will be able to fill up with bio-gasoline and bio-diesel from the Swedish forest – thanks to LIGNOL from RenFuel.
RenFuel produces lignin oil (LIGNOL) from lignin in black liquor from the pulp industry. Following conventional refining, LIGNOL can be mixed to any degree into fossil gasoline and diesel as a drop-in fuel and can reduce the need for fossil fuels in the short term. LIGNOL is also very suitable for blending with kerosene, aviation fuel.
LIGNOL will be able to provide tangible solutions to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from fuels. LIGNOL is one key to reach the Swedish government’s target of having a 70% fossil-free transport sector in Sweden by 2030.
There is a huge amount of black liquor and lignin in the Swedish pulp industry. Today’s potential of lignin extraction from the Swedish forestry industry is in the region of between two and three million tonnes per year, equivalent to about
30-40% of the country’s fossil fuel consumption.
First generation of bio-gasoline
LIGNOL is the first lignin-based bio-oil, also able to generate renewable gasoline, which provides crucial opportunities to meet the new reduction obligation for the gasoline pool as well. Today’s gasoline and diesel vehicles will therefore gradually become climate-neutral with LIGNOL in the tank. To a large extent, society is saved a costly conversion to brand new vehicles with entirely new technology, which would be required without this type of drop-in fuel. There are also a number of practical advantages over other types of fossil-free fuels.
RenFuel is an innovative Swedish biofuel company that can contribute significantly to the fossil-free transport systems of the future through its product, LIGNOL. What makes RenFuel’s product unique is the patented catalytic process through which LIGNOL is produced.
RenFuel is a spin-off from a research group at Uppsala University (2012) that, with knowledge of green chemistry and biomass from forests, developed a renewable, lignin-based bio-oil.
Professor Joseph Samec and his research team at Uppsala University invented the technique. In addition to his successful academic research agenda, Samec works at RenFuel as head of research on developing the innovation to commercial maturity together with his team.
Today, RenFuel has 15 patent ‘families’ and patents in over 40 countries. Approximately 15-20% of the company’s development budget is spent on intellectual property annually.
RenFuel’s catalytic process has the potential to be disruptive technology in the world of chemistry. Whole countries’ fuel production could be changed for the better on a large scale, with reduced CO2 emissions and more efficient forestry. RenFuel’s product LIGNOL is a renewable liquid bio-oil produced by a catalytic process that refines the solid lignin molecule. Lignin is the dominating substance in black liquor. The production process for LIGNOL is mild in its reaction, very energy efficient and produces neither toxic emissions nor harmful waste products. RenFuel’s catalytic process is borrowed from the pharmaceutical industry and is unique in its kind and effectiveness. The product’s properties are identical to those of fossil oil but are accepted as climate-neutral.
No new investments needed in infrastructure
LIGNOL also has other revolutionary benefits. It can be refined in conventional refineries (does not require extensive new investment in the refinery) to produce renewable gasoline and diesel, and it can be distributed in existing distribution channels as what is known as drop-in fuel. The molecules have the same properties as fossil diesel and gasoline molecules and can therefore be used in all types of current combustion engines.
Pulp mill bottleneck
Black liquor, which contains high concentrations of the substance lignin, is produced in very large quantities during the production of pulp. The pulp industry needs to get rid of this waste product to be able to produce more high-quality pulp. Normally, black liquor is burned in the mill’s recovery boiler to regenerate inorganic chemicals for pulp cooking. However, the recovery boiler is a bottleneck in the process in that the volumes of black liquor produced in increased pulp production are too large for the limited and capital-intense recovery boiler. The CAPEX of a recovery boiler is estimated at 40-50% of a total CAPEX for a pulp mill. Pulp production must therefore be adapted to how fast the mill can get rid of the black liquor.
When a significant quantity of black liquor is instead used in LIGNOL production, capacity in the mill can be freed up to produce greater quantities of pulp. RenFuel’s use of lignin from black liquor ensures that a waste product of low value is used in an innovative and more productive and profitable way. A significantly higher value is added compared to burning black liquor and in terms of increased production capacity.
Ongoing pilot project
The pilot project is fully in line with the Swedish Energy Agency’s strategic priorities in the area of renewable fuels, and research on lignin-based biofuel, including LIGNOL, is seen as such a priority. The pilot project’s main deliverables are to test all operating parameters in scaled-up forms for LIGNOL and to conduct corresponding tests in the refinery environment. These tests are now in the final phase with positive results.
In addition, the project has to develop generic drawings, process descriptions and cost estimates for a commercial LIGNOL plant in the very near future.
In September 2017, RenFuel concluded a co-operation and development agreement with the forestry industry company Rottneros regarding collaboration on the development of lignin extraction from Vallvik Mill in Söderhamn, Sweden, which works with the production and sale of market pulp.
Rottneros Group consists of the parent company Rottneros AB, which is listed on NASDAQ Stockholm, and its subsidiaries Rottneros Bruk AB and Vallviks Bruk AB. The group has approximately 300 employees and had a turnover in 2017 of approximately SEK 1.9bn (~€0.19bn).
In May 2018, RenFuel signed a new co-operation agreement with Preem, the largest fuel company in Sweden, with a refining capacity of more than 18 million cubic metres of crude oil every year. Preem refines and sells gasoline, diesel, heating oil and renewable fuels to companies and consumers in Sweden and abroad.
This collaboration gives RenFuel capacity to produce LIGNOL for commercial use from 2021. RenFuel will then become the first player on the biofuel market to produce bio-oil from black liquor on a large scale.
The raw material for the process, black liquor from pulp mills, is classified as waste according to the current (RED I) and future (RED II) renewable energy directives and listed as an approved renewable raw material for biofuel production.
The finished LIGNOL oil product has a greenhouse gas reduction of about 90% compared to equivalent fossil oil.
Its positive climate properties compared to fossil gasoline and diesel are supplemented by the fact that after refining, LIGNOL has the same energy content as its fossil equivalents. Compared with other green fuels, such as ethanol, its energy level is therefore significantly higher, and its molecular properties make the fuel useable even at much colder temperatures, fully comparable with its fossil equivalents.
In Sweden there is now 25% more forest compared to 25 years ago, and the forest stock has doubled since the 1920s from 1.7 to 3.3 billion forest cubic meters and it continues to increase – in balance.
This in turn leads to increased export opportunities for the Swedish forestry industry and business sector. The trade balance in the country is improved when increased domestic renewable raw materials replace expensive imported fossil crude oil. It also entails an improvement in security policy through reduced national vulnerability. The country’s dependence on imported oil from high-risk and conflict-torn countries and regions is also gradually reduced. Self-sufficiency in energy raw materials provides increased stability and predictability for the country’s energy supply.
All these benefits – climate benefits, usability, regulatory, synergy effects, access to raw materials, and technological intensity – make RenFuel’s patented lignin oil, LIGNOL, a truly unique innovation for meeting the target of a 70% reduction in the transport sector’s CO2 emissions by 2030 compared with 2010, set by the Swedish Parliament.
Our most important customers
In autumn 2018, RenFuel will begin the process of delivering LIGNOL-based fuels to the Swedish market by 2021, through its co-operation agreement with Preem. The Swedish target of the reduction obligation – 70% reduction in CO2 emissions for its vehicle fleet by 2030 – means that refineries and fuel companies are under severe pressure to increase the supply of biofuels and reduce the proportion of fossil fuels. The delivery agreement with Preem will be valid for many years to come, securing production revenue for the foreseeable future.
Financing and ownership structure
RenFuel’s main source of funding is venture capital, partly from the company’s individual owners and partly in the form of a number of partnerships. In 2013, the Swedish Energy Agency granted project funding for technology verification of SEK 16m. The project reached its targets on schedule in 2015. In 2015, the Swedish Energy Agency granted funding of SEK 71m for a pilot project, including a plant in Bäckhammar where test production of LIGNOL began in 2017.
RenFuel is owned primarily by its founder, Samec, and his family, CEO Sven Löchen, intrapreneur and entrepreneur from the IT industry, and chairman Dick Carrick, who has a long history in the Swedish forestry industry. The remaining owners consist of a consortium of private investors as well as employees in the company through a redeemed share option plan.
RenFuel’s overall uniqueness
The conversion to a green economy will put enormous pressure on all companies affected by the climate targets to do their best to meet them. LIGNOL is made of renewable resources, which means the product is one of the most climate-efficient fossil-free fuels on the market. LIGNOL is the fastest and simplest way to contribute to achieving a fossil-free vehicle fleet by 2030. RenFuel constitutes the front line in terms of innovation in biofuel and other forms of fossil oil substitutes. Compared to others who have tried to succeed on the market for fossil-free bio-oils, RenFuel is closest to a commercial operation and large-scale production.
The key to success lies in the fact that we can offer something to all players in the production chain. The utilisation of the pulp industry’s waste products is one fact and our focus on avoiding high entry capital costs is the other. The product is adapted to existing infrastructure within fuel production and distribution, meeting the requirements of regulations on renewables.
Few, if any, competitors have as many positive effects regarding use and synergy effects. Thanks to LIGNOL, today’s diesel and gasoline-powered vehicles will not be obsolete but can continue to be used without any problems. This not only benefits motorists but also means great savings for businesses and society due to limited investments in new infrastructure.
At the same time as LIGNOL is revolutionising the transport sector, profitability is increasing in the pulp industry. The larger the scale of the production of LIGNOL, the greater the profits will be for the company involved – and for the environment.
This also benefits the local community, not least in sparsely populated areas. Many new jobs and opportunities in the high-tech industry will be created in forested regions.
Finally, the product also has great potential in terms of international demand. International agreements and strong political will drive demand for renewable technology and reduced emissions of carbon dioxide.
LIGNOL will ensure that Swedish technological development will be able to provide tangible solutions to one of the greatest environmental problems of our time.
Countries with good access to wood raw material and an established forestry industry can reduce their environmental emissions through licensed production of LIGNOL and increase their national balance of payments and economic self-sufficiency.