The VIOBOND consortium will replace fossil resources with renewable lignin in everyday consumer products

by | Sep 2, 2021 | News

9 partners from 5 European Union Member States have joined forces in the VIOBOND project worth EUR 35 million to establish a new, unique bio-based resin plant in Latvia.

Project was selected in the frame of HORIZON Europe programme for research and innovation and aims to take significant commercialization steps based on the natural wood component lignin, creating industrial technologies for a significant reduction of the share of fossil raw materials in phenol formaldehyde resin, which is currently widely used in various everyday products.

Replacing refined petroleum products, phenol, and formaldehyde in resins with industrially produced renewable lignin will achieve the objective set by VIOBOND partners – the use of bio-based, more environmentally friendly and less toxic materials in the production of furniture, floor coverings, thermal insulation, sandpaper and other everyday products.

The coordinator of the cross-sectoral project VIOBOND is the Latvijas Finieris Group – a world leader in research, development, and production of high-value-added birch plywood products. Together with 8 partners, the project combines knowledge and experience in lignin, wood processing, energy, engineering and other fields of scientific research and industrial production:

  • Latvijas Finieris (Latvia) – birch plywood production, chemical industry
  • Graanul Biotech (Estonia) – wood processing via fractionation technology and supply of different lignin qualities
  • St1 (Finland) – biorefining, lignin producer
  • Chempolis (Finland) – biorefining, lignin producer
  • Saint-Gobain Finland (Finland) – engineering technologies, resin user
  • Mirka (Finland) – engineering technologies, resin user
  • Pörner Ingenieurgesellshaft (Germany) – engineering technologies
  • Fundacio Universitaria Balmes (Spain) – sustainability assessment
  • Latvian State Institute of Wood Chemistry (Latvia) – analytics, research, and development

The total eligible costs of the VIOBOND project is EUR 35 million, of which EUR 16 million comes from the EU (Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking) and the rest from companies participating in the project. The program’s support shall focus on tackling climate change and investing in the sustainable development goals, contributing to the EU’s competitiveness and growth.
The process of signing the grant agreement was fully completed on May 18, 2021, formally marking the beginning of the important cooperation. The project will start on September 1st 2021 and will end in August 31st 2026.

Additional information:

Most plants, including trees of all species, contain 20-30% lignin, a natural biopolymer that together with cellulose and hemicellulose forms the wood cell structure and provides close bonds between them. It is thanks to this durable structure that trees can grow in length, while wood acquires its excellent mechanical properties.
Historically, lignin was a by-product in the production of pulp, which, together with other by-products, was mainly used as a fuel for energy production. In recent years, the development of novel wood processing technologies has made it possible to extract from wood chemically non modified lignin well suitable for further chemical modifications and functionalization.

Currently there is continuous growth of focused research on valorizing lignin globally, that allows to predict wide array of applications for lignin in near future. VIOBOND project managing partner Latvijas Finieris has already taken an important step in this direction. In cooperation with the chemical and mechanical wood processing company Stora Enso, an adhesive has been developed in which pulp production derived sulfonated Kraft lignin has been used as a partial substitute for the traditionally used fossil-based phenol, and birch plywood products RIGA ECOlogical are offered on the market.

Within the framework of the VIOBOND project, the world’s first novel biorefining lignins-based resin production plant is to be built at the Latvijas Finieris industrial hub in Riga, becoming from an industrial pilot project a fully commercialized, scalable, and widely used industrial technology. VIOBOND partners St1, Graanul Biotech and Chempolis provide biorefinery lignin to piloting. VIOBOND partners Saint-Gobain Finland and Mirka will adapt the use of resin in their products within the framework of the project. Scientific research in the project will be covered by Fundacio Universitaria Balmes and Latvian State Institute of Wood Chemistry. VIOBOND partner Pörner Ingenieurgesellshaft will provide process knowhow and technologies to the lignin-based resin production plant.

The Environmental product declarations developed by Latvijas Finieris for birch plywood with and without lignin in the composition of the adhesive demonstrates that products for which lignin resin has been used in the production process are more environmentally friendly.