LigninPLUS Project: Expand Pilot Line for Lignin-Based Bio-Aromatics

Within the LigninPLUS project, Biorizon co-initiator VITO aimed to expand the existing pilot infrastructure platform built around LignoValue Pilot (EFRO Flanders) and PILLAR II (Moonshot LSI) for demonstrating innovative lignin processes at an industrially relevant scale to achieve faster innovations in the lignin-to-aromatics value chain.

Roughly a year ago, Biorizon co-initiator VITO inaugurated the first and only pilot line for the production of bioaromatics from lignin in Europe: the LignoValue Pilot. Substituting products derived from fossil fuels (most conventional aromatics) with bio-based, high-performance, and safe alternatives is a significant economic challenge for the European chemical industry. Through the EFRO LignoValue Pilot project, VITO established a pilot line to demonstrate technologies for depolymerising lignin in a continuous process (or breaking it down into usable pieces). This enables the delivery of proof-of-concepts for various process steps. Insights gained from process development, construction, pilot unit commissioning, and site development have indicated the need for further optimisation of this infrastructure. With the LigninPLUS project, VITO aimed to expand the existing infrastructure platform with additional funding from EFRO and the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fund (VLAIO).

Lignin is one of the most common organic materials on Earth. It is a molecule naturally produced by nature in the cell walls of plant cells (e.g., wood, grass, straw, cornstalks), providing strength and rigidity to plants and trees. Due to its chemical structure, lignin has the potential to replace many substances containing aromatic compounds – approximately 40% of all used chemical building blocks – in the chemical industry, which currently originate from fossil sources. These substances are found, for example, in synthetic resins, which have a wide range of applications in various sectors, including construction, mobility and transportation, and the plastics industry. Achieving a breakthrough with bioaromatics is therefore one of the significant challenges in the chemical industry.

Expansion of the existing lignovalue pilot for accelerating the lignin value chain

Within the LigninPLUS project, VITO aimed to expand the existing pilot infrastructure platform built around LignoValue Pilot (EFRO Flanders) and PILLAR II (Moonshot LSI) for demonstrating innovative lignin processes at an industrially relevant scale to achieve faster innovations in the lignin-to-aromatics value chain. To accomplish this, VITO seeked financing from EFRO, with co-financing from VLAIO (Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship). The LigninPLUS project ran from 1 September to 31 December 2023, and involved the investment in innovative state-of-the-art equipment to:

  • Safely store and process raw materials and bioaromatics.
  • Make these materials more easily transportable and safer for customers and businesses.
  • Quickly resolve technical issues on the pilot units by creating a replica of the pilot units on a laboratory scale.

The delivery and installation of the purchased equipment will take place in 2024.

Accelerated transition of lignin innovations to the market

This project allowed for the further preparation of the existing site, pilot units, and developed technology to expedite innovations and facilitate the flow of innovative applications to Flemish enterprises. In this way, LigninPLUS served as a valuable expansion of the existing infrastructure platform, contributing to the techno-economic proof-of-concept for the production and use of bioaromatics in various materials. The presence of such an extensive pilot site in Flanders will provide a boost to the chemical sector, acting as an intermediary between the laboratory and industrial production, with the intended outcome of a faster transition of innovative applications to the market.


For more information about the LigninPLUS project, please contact Kelly Servaes from VITO at or +32 (0)4 93 31 87 46.


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This project is made possible by a contribution from the European
Regional Development Fund (ERDF) within the framework of OP-Zuid.

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