Stora Enso is investing EUR 10 million to build a pilot facility for producing bio-based carbon materials based on lignin. Wood-based carbon can be utilised as a crucial component in batteries typically used in consumer electronics, the automotive industry and large-scale energy storage systems. The pilot plant will be located at Stora Enso’s Sunila Mill in Finland.
The investment in making carbon materials for energy storage further strengthens Stora Enso’s opportunities to replace fossil-based and mined raw materials as well as to connect sustainable materials to ongoing technology innovations.
Lignin is one of the main building blocks of a tree. Today, the lignin produced at Sunila Mill, Lineo™ by Stora Enso, is used, for example, to replace fossil-based components in phenols for adhesives. With the new investment, Stora Enso will pilot the processing of lignin into a carbon intermediate for electrode materials. This lignin will be converted into so called hard carbon anode materials for lithium-ion batteries with properties similar to graphite. Such batteries are used daily in mobile phones and similar portable devices, power tools, electric vehicles, in industrial applications, in stationary energy storage and grid units, and so on.
“This investment is another step on our transformation journey to explore new ways to replace fossil-based, scarce and high-cost materials with renewable alternatives. Using wood-based lignin for technical carbon material offers an exciting opportunity. With the pilot facility we will continue to build on our long-term work in extracting lignin from biomass to create more value from it. We will target the rapidly growing battery market in which companies are looking for high-quality, attractively priced and sustainable materials,” says Markus Mannström, Executive Vice President of Stora Enso’s Biomaterials division.
The construction of the pilot facility will begin before the end of 2019 and is estimated to be complete by early 2021. Decisions about commercialisation will follow after evaluating the results of the pilot-scale production.
Stora Enso has been producing lignin industrially at its Sunila Mill in Finland since 2015. The mill’s annual production capacity is 50 000 tonnes making Stora Enso the largest kraft lignin producer in the world.