The German Minister of Agriculture, Ilse Aigner, has launched the pilot phase of the world’s first lignocellulose biorefinery to be set up by a research consortium at the Leuna chemical location. Speaking in Berlin, Aigner presented the decision of the German government to grant more than 8.5 million euros to a consortium that also includes researchers from Baden-Württemberg as part of the “Renewable Resources” programme of the German Ministry of Nutrition, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV).
"Previously, no biorefinery was able to chemically use all key components of wood. A plant of this kind represents huge progress in the efficient use of renewable resources," said Aigner.
The use of all components of wood will now be tested for the first time in a pilot phase. A special method will be used to separate the three major components of wood - cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Cellulose and hemicellulose will subsequently be processed into fermentable sugars destined for biotechnological applications. Lignin can be processed into biomaterials and adhesives or be used as a basic substance for the production of chemicals.
It is planned to complete the construction of the refinery at the Leuna chemical location in Saxony-Anhalt by 2012. The project involves a number of well-known partners, including Bayer, Evonik, the Fraunhofer Society and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). The project will be coordinated by the Fachagentur für Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V. (Agency of Renewable Resources (FNR)), which is a project management organisation of the BMELV. If the experience has positive results as expected, the construction of a large-scale lignocellulose biorefinery will be the next step on the path towards the industrial use of this new technology.