Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Markets for Wood Waste Products

Lignol Energy Corporation located in British Columbia is looking at the new generation of biofuels. They are making their ethanol the byproduct of an industrial process. The process focuses on the cultivation of a market for the natural glue and lignin that wood pulp contains. It is the lignin that makes the ethanol. However, even with the cost of oil over $100 a barrel, woodbased ethanol isn't commercially competitive. It won't be till the price of oil goes up much higher, or cellulosic ethanol must become cheaper. The company's CEO Ross MacLachlan says "from an industry perspective I think it's fair to say that the cost curve is going to fall over time."

It is well known that we need to start relying more on biofuels but need to find a way to do so without cutting into our food supply. The good news is that there is no shortage of wood waste in British Columbia. "They say that there is going to be about a billion cubic metres of wood out there [due to forest kills by the mountain pine beetle]. If you take about two-10ths of one per cent per year that's enough to meet the five-per-cent renewable fuel standard for the province of B.C. Just to take a reasonable commercial amount of that [volume of available wood], presents B.C. and Canada generally with an enormous opportunity for export to the United States and to the world."

Lignol has many more years of research behind fuel than their competitors. GE was doing fuelgrade research in the 1970s and Repap Enterprises added $100 million to this research. Lignol inherited all of this. When the prices of oil crashed after the global economic meltdown in 2008, the company decided to look into other options. Several years ago, the company's primary product was cellulosic ethanol and lignin was just a byproduct; however, their primary product today is lignin.

The pure form of lignin has the color and texture of cocoa powder in the dry form.

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