In the Netherlands, Vertoro, Spanish for “Green Gold” is turning lignin into crude lignin oil, or CLO which is similar to fossil crude oil. Vertoro, along with Professor Emiel Hensen from Eindhoven University of Technology, received a grant worth €40.000 (about $46,000) awarded by the NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences. The grant will be used to improve on and further scale up the production of CLO. Ultimately, in 2019 and 2022 a 50 ton pilot and 10.000 ton demo CLO plant, respectively, will be constructed at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen, according to Innovation Origins.
In contrast to the traditional ways of lignin conversion, the Vertoro approach does not require catalysts, acids, or even solvent recovery. The latter attribute of technology means that no boiling of the solvent is required, thereby saving on energy and leaving a relatively low carbon footprint, according to Innovation Origins. The end product of the process is a mixture of lignin and solvent. In the future, Vertoro plans to sell licenses for CLO production to companies with lignin streams.