Extracting the most value from Lignosulfonates

One of the biggest challenges faced by many producers is knowing how to manage and profit from the byproducts created during the pulp making process. Through our expertise in the industry and our knowledge of the growing demand for lignosulfonates, we can help to drive this sector forward and create high value for our clients. For the purpose of this article, we would like to focus on some of the co-products produced during the pulping process and the opportunities they present for commercialization.

Chemistry by Nature

Lignosulfonate, also known as sulfonated lignin, is an organic polymer that occurs naturally in wood and which “glues” the cellulose fibers together. In simple terms, they are responsible for holding the woody part of a plant or tree together. During the sulfite wood pulping process, these natural polymers are made soluble and recovered from the spent pulping liquids and are burnt for energy or further extracted and used in a broad range of applications.

To the chemical engineer working in the pulp mill, lignosulfonates can be a troublesome component in the pulping process. They need to be separated and removed from the wood chips to ensure the best grade of pulp is produced. Considering the large volume of pulp that is resulting with large volumes of coproducts, finding profitable uses for these products could have significant economic importance. For this reason, CellMark found lignosulfonates to be a perfect fit for its business model.

The Ingenious Uses for Lignosulfonates

Once lignosulfonates have been extracted through the sulfite process and rendered soluble (being evaporated at 45-60% solid), they resemble a brittle dark brown resin that offers many ingenious uses. In fact, there are currently over 3,000 patents in place worldwide  that cover the use of lignin and lignosulfonates. Indeed, research can be traced back to the mid-20th century or even prior.

The sustainability and abundance of these co-products are now inspiring today’s scientist to rediscover lignin and advance the research on different applications. Lignosulfonate is a chemically very interesting and versatile polymer.

scientist with molecule

Artist: Keith Negley

Its chemical composition makes it suited for several applications. Indeed, it keeps its original attribute as a binder, while it acquired the ability to disperse through the sulfite process. Also, its chemical composition makes it ideally suited in agriculture as an efficient carrier for micro nutrients and an efficient partial substitute for other polymers.

Several Applications

As a dispersant – When the lignin is sulfonated, it gives it dispersing or water reducing properties. It will be used to disperse chemical solutions in agriculture, dyes, inks, mining, construction among others. Of late, it has been ”rediscovered” as a natural and partial substitute to some oil based polymers.

As a Binder – Lignosulfonate deploys some of its original function whence it plays a critical role in providing stiffness and rigidity to trees. It is an effective binder in the preparation of animal feed and fertilizer pellets, carbon black, activated carbon, tiles, bricks and refractories and mineral dust briquettes among others.

They are also used for stabilizing soil on unfinished roads or soft shoulders where they act as a binder and help to control dust. Lignosulfonates as an organic polymer is full of nutrients. As such it may contain nitrogen, sulfur, magnesium, ammonium, potassium, calcium. It can be additivated with other nutrients and becomes an excellent carrier to deliver the nutrients to plants as a complexing agent. In some countries, its abundance in organic matters will make it ideally suited for such use as soil enrichment or soil remediation.

Extracting the Most Value from Lignosulfonates

Key to success is to always seek the best collaborative innovation relationships. By working closely with end users in the lignosulfonate and lignin industry we can help them to position products in segments that create the utmost value and create strategies designed to surpass existing offerings and improve production and development processes.

Our strategy is simple; to develop and market the world’s best lignosulfonate supply solutions and to deliver them to our customers worldwide. ”In doing so we can help customers develop and market cost-efficient and optimal products for a specific application and provide high value creative customer-driven mill-to-market logistics solutions” indicates Jean-Luc Carrière Vice President and General Manager, Lignin.


Artist: Dan Page

A Sustainable Business Opportunity

Lignosulfonates offer green, sustainable solutions and are in abundant supply. Their demand is also rising, and this has caused a growing interest from producers who realize the potential value of their byproducts and wish to explore the possibilities of marketing them. Conversely, one of the biggest challenges for our partners is accessing byproducts like lignin and lignosulfonates in a way that is economical, reliable and sustainable. When their processes rely on a steady and sure supply of these components, it is essential that they have the right strategies in place to ensure the right level of supply.

How CellMark can bring value

This is where CellMark can assist. We specialize in providing a wide range of services and know-hows to further develop the use of lignin and lignosulfonates across a broad selection of applications. Most importantly, we are committed in introducing the concept required to produce the optimal quality lignosulfonates, facilitate future development and to market 100 percent of the finished product. This not only helps producers position their products in the market, but ensures that those who need them will benefit from a consistent quality supply.

To help absorb faster the producers desire to grow their lignosulfonates sales. A strategy is not complete without the development of new applications to ensure growth in current applications and work on new applications. Carriere indicates: ”one way to achieve this and support producer and end-user alike is through selecting some of the most innovative technologies through active partnerships”. He continues: ”Furthermore, we can develop and execute supply solutions for most basic chemicals used in today’s biorefineries”.

Defining the Future of Lignosulfonates

CellMark is an supply chain services company specializing in services for the pulp and paper industry among others, and excels in identifying and building collaborative innovation partnerships. One of the biggest challenges faced by many producers is knowing how to manage and profit from the byproducts created during the pulping process. Through our expertise in the industry and our knowledge of the growing demand for lignosulfonates, we can help to drive this sector forward and create high value for our clients.

Ersin Alkan President of CellMark Basic Chemicals; We wish to distinguish ourselves as an entrepreneurial team consistently looking for complete solutions from the forest to markets”. He adds, ”CellMark is the ideal platform for entrepreneurial companies wishing to have a partner that will support them in the execution of their strategies”.




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