LONDON - 7 May, 2014 - Long considered a waste product of the pulping industry, lignin, a major component of biomass, is currently being used for low and medium-value applications (e.g. binding and dispersing agents), representing a market of $730 million. However, according to Frost & Sullivan, strong signals indicate that lignin could be set to address high-value opportunities as early as 2017, such as substituting phenol or as a component in polyurethane formulation. The development of public and private R&D projects in this field could make lignin-based phenolic monomers or carbon fibre a reality by 2020.
The potential of the lignin market globally is addressed in a new Market Insight in which Frost & Sullivan's experts identify key barriers and analyse different ways to address them. In particular, this new research explores four promising lignin applications: BTX, phenol, carbon fibre and vanillin.
The industry is just beginning to scratch the surface of lignin's potential: it could become the main renewable aromatic resource for the chemical industry in the future and, at the same time, it represents a unique chance for petrochemists to secure a future alternative source of raw material.
"Catching this wave early could allow large industry players to hedge against the volatility of raw material prices while decreasing their environmental impact," explains Principal Analyst Brian Balmer. "With their support, the lignin industry could unlock opportunities in a shorter time-frame. Being the first mover on this market can assure technology leadership, strategic partnerships and a competitive edge."
"The petrochemical industry holds by far the highest capacity to accelerate the emergence of lignin-based chemicals," concludes Dr Balmer. "This is not a game where the petrochemical industry will necessarily lose out to the 'green' industry. The most frequent forecast heard in the industry is that biorefiners will become an increasing source of alternative feedstock for petrochemists by means of joint ventures or acquisitions. In the long term, biorefiners and downstream chemists are likely to be integrated."
What the nascent lignin-based chemicals industry proposes is to create value through focused collaboration.
To receive the full version of this Market Insight entitled "High-Value Opportunities for Lignin: Ready for liftoff", please send an email to Julia Nikishkina, Corporate Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org, with your contact details and your company name.
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