The profitability and sustainability of future biorefineries are dependent on efficient feedstock use. Therefore, it is essential to valorize lignin when using wood. We have developed an integrated biorefinery that converts 78 weight % (wt %) of birch into xylochemicals. Reductive catalytic fractionation of the wood produces a carbohydrate pulp amenable to bioethanol production and a lignin oil. After extraction of the lignin oil, the crude, unseparated mixture of phenolic monomers is catalytically funneled into 20 wt % of phenol and 9 wt % of propylene (on the basis of lignin weight) by gas-phase hydroprocessing and dealkylation; the residual phenolic oligomers (30 wt %) are used in printing ink as replacements for controversial para-nonylphenol. A techno-economic analysis predicts an economically competitive production process, and a life-cycle assessment estimates a lower carbon dioxide footprint relative to that of fossil-based production.
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