Södra's Investment: Pioneering World's Largest Kraft Lignin Facility

3D sketch of what the factory could look like at Södra's site in Mönsterås. Source: Södra

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Södra, a Swedish forest company, is making a significant move to become the world's largest producer of kraft lignin.

The company is investing over two billion SEK (190 million USD) to establish a new commercial facility in Sweden, which is expected to be operational by 2027.

This initiative is part of Södra's strategy to maximize the value of each tree and contribute to the green transition. Kraft lignin, a byproduct of the pulping process, has the potential to replace fossil-based materials in various applications, including glue, batteries, rubber, composites, and as a basis for new biofuels and biostimulators.

The market demand for sustainable alternatives to fossil chemicals is growing, and Södra has been actively exploring opportunities and engaging with potential customers. The company has already secured offtake agreements for a significant portion of its planned production volumes.

Lotta Lyrå, CEO of Södra, emphasizes the importance of balancing sustainability and profitability in the transition away from fossil-based materials. This investment is expected to strengthen the company's profitability while contributing to the green transition.

intl1 27juin24 2Schematic representation of the chemical structure of sulfate lignin.

Currently, lignin is primarily used for energy generation. However, Södra's refining process will enable more efficient utilization of this raw material as a valuable product. This aligns with the company's strategy to create additional value from forest resources.

Catrin Gustavsson, Executive Vice President at Södra Innovation, highlights the importance of innovation in maintaining competitiveness and creating value from each tree. The company sees kraft lignin as one of several future energy and chemical products with significant potential to replace fossil-based materials.

Johannes Bogren, Vice President of Södra Bioproducts, notes that the addition of kraft lignin to their product portfolio strengthens Södra's position as a supplier of sustainable alternatives. The growing market interest has prompted the company to offer this product that contributes to the green transition.

The establishment of this facility, which will have the world's largest capacity for kraft lignin production, is supported by the Swedish Energy Agency and The Industrial Leap program.

What is lignin

intl1 27juin24 1aDried sulfate lignin

Lignin is the component of the forest raw material that holds the fibres together and ensures that trees are strong and stable. In separated form, lignin is a brown powder. In chemical language, lignin is a biopolymer comprising a series of interconnected aromatic compounds. Södra has for many years collaborated with, and supported, research on lignin and has extensive knowledge about lignin and the opportunities it brings. 

In the pulp cooking phase, lignin is released so that the fibres can be released and become pulp or dissolving pulp. This means that large amounts of lignin are created at the mills and that part of the lignin can be separated and become a product. Today, lignin generates steam and electricity to operate the mills, of which a surplus is sold to the public power grid.

About Södra
Södra was founded in 1938 on the principle that unity brings strength. Today, it stands as the largest forest-owner association in Sweden, boasting 52,000 family forest owners as members. Collectively, Södra's members own a globally leading industry that transforms forest raw materials into renewable products, including pulp, timber, building systems, liquid bioproducts, and energy.