At the Leuna Biorefinery, wood is processed into sustainable biochemicals. Utilising every part of the biomass, this cutting-edge technology supports the environmentally friendly production of fuels, polymers and materials.

Wood consists of three primary organic polymers: cellulose, lignin, and hemicellulose. Cellulose represents approximately 50% of the wood’s dry weight. It is the primary strengthening material in wood and provides structural support. Lignin represents approximately 25% of the wood’s dry weight. It gives trees their rigidity, acting as a natural adhesive but also makes them water and degradation resistant. Hemicellulose represents up to 25% of the wood’s dry weight and has two unique roles. First, it helps bind cellulose and lignin together.

Second, it contains numerous moisture sorption sites, so it helps to store more water in the cell walls.

Leuna biorefinery combines wood processing with innovative chemistry

The novelty of the Leuna biorefinery processes is to extract these building blocks and refine them into high-value base and performance chemicals, combining the best of wood processing technology with innovative chemistry, using almost everything of the woody biomass in our final products and side streams.

We use thinning and industrial hardwood from responsibly and sustainably managed regional forests which is debarked and chipped after arrival in our biorefinery in Leuna. In the next step, the hemicellulose is separated and converted into industrial sugars by a pre-treatment process. Hemicellulose-based industrial sugars can be processed further into a large variety of products including fuel, food, and polymers for diverse applications.

After removal of the hemicellulose, the cellulose is separated from the lignin by an enzymatic process yielding sugars which are converted into renewable glycols: bio-monoethylene glycol (BioMEG) and bio-monopropylene glycol (BioMPG). These renewable biochemicals can improve the sustainability performance of various end use applications, such as textiles, coolants, or packaging. As a 1:1 drop-in replacement, the biochemicals derived from cellulose can be seamlessly integrated into existing recycling cycles, compensating the losses in the recycling loop with renewable materials.

To date, lignin is not widely used in industrial applications. We are determined to change this. The successful utilization of lignin can broaden the spectrum of renewable resources in producing chemicals, fuels, and materials.

After removal of the cellulose in form of sugars the lignin is converted into an entirely new category of biochemicals produced from lignin. Our UPM BioMotion™ RFF offers a sustainable alternative to carbon black and precipitated silica in a broad range of rubber and plastic applications.