- Lignin-First Biorefinery Development

Research output: NRELPresentation


The Lignin-First Biorefinery Development (LigFirst) project aims to develop a cost-effective, and scalable biomass fractionation strategy based on reductive catalytic fractionation (RCF). The RCF process uses a protic solvent, hydrogen gas or a hydrogen donor, and a metal catalyst in the presence of intact biomass to produce a stable, depolymerized lignin oil and a polysaccharide pulp, which can both be converted to value-added products in parallel processes. RCF is a promising strategy to enable the use of woody feedstocks in biochemical conversion processes and is also promising as a means to valorize lignin with equal emphasis to biomass carbohydrates. Guided by techno-economic analysis and life cycle assessment and in collaboration with industry partners, we are actively developing RCF methods to 1) avoid the need for exogenous hydrogen gas, 2) substantially reduce reactor pressure via use of low vapor pressure solvents, 3) separate the lignin solvolysis and catalytic processes through reaction engineering solutions, 4) reduce solvent loading below what can be achieved in typical batch reactors, and 5) avoid or minimize the use of organic solvents. The LigFirst project also collaborates closely with the Lignin Utilization and Lignin Conversion-to-SAF projects for critical substrate handoffs and analytics. Overall, the LigFirst project is enabling new approaches that ultimately can enable RCF to be a feedstock-agnostic method to valorize both polysaccharides and lignin.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages31
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the 2023 U.S. Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) Project Peer Review, 3-7 April 2023, Denver, Colorado

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-2A00-85656


  • lignin
  • reductive catalytic fractionation


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