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Licella and Canfor to form JV for advanced biomass-based biofuels; catalytic hydrothermal technology

Australia-based Licella Fibre Fuels Pty Ltd. and Canada-based Canfor Pulp Products Inc. (CPPI), through its subsidiary Canfor Pulp Ltd., signed an agreement to form a joint-venture: Licella Pulp Joint Venture.

Licella Pulp Joint Venture will investigate opportunities to integrate Licella’s Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR) upgrading platform into Canfor Pulp's kraft and mechanical pulp mills to convert biomass—including wood residues from Canfor Pulp’s kraft pulping processes—economically into biocrude oil to produce next generation biofuels and biochemicals. This additional residue stream refining would allow Canfor Pulp to further optimize their pulp production capacity.

Upon successful integration of the Cat-HTR technology, the Licella Pulp Joint Venture would look towards offering this solution to other third party Kraft and mechanical pulp mills.

This agreement follows a successful program of preliminary trials conducted on feedstock from Canfor Pulp’s Prince George, British Columbia pulp mill at Licella’s pilot plants located in New South Wales, Australia . In these trials, wood residue streams from Canfor Pulp’s kraft process were successfully converted into a stable biocrude oil.

The Cat-HTR process is a strong technical fit for the kraft process. The opportunity to directly produce advanced biofuels from our existing streams could transition Canfor Pulp from being strictly a pulp and paper manufacturer to a bio-energy producer as well. The Licella technology has significant similarities to our existing processes which makes this partnership a natural fit.

—Brett Robinson, President of CPPI

Licella’s Cat-HTR technology may add significant value to Canfor Pulp’s kraft process by creating new products from Canfor Pulp’s waste streams. What we are potentially building towards is a bio-refinery to utilise the entire tree, rather than part of the tree.

—Dr. Len Humphreys, CEO of Licella

Licella is a subsidiary of Licella Pty. Limited, which in turn is a subsidiary of Ignite Energy Resources Ltd. (IER), an Australian public unlisted natural resource and energy technology development company. IER has developed a proprietary lignite and biomass upgrading platform, the Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR).

Under elevated heat and pressure, water approaches the supercritical state to process pulverized waste biomass, breaking down the ether linkages in the polymeric structure of the feedstock.

Unlike other technologies which have including a drying process, the Cat-HTR utilizes water at or near supercritical temperatures and pressures as a cost-effective catalyst, and is able to process a wide variety of wet feedstock, even co-mingled, without the need for a drying step. In addition, the process liberates water versus some competitive technologies that are net water users.

Benefits of the Cat-HTR process include:

  • Lower carbon footprint due to a relatively low reaction temperatures (~ 300 ˚C) unlike other upgrading technologies such as pyrolysis (~500 ˚C) and gasification (~700 ˚C);

  • No need to dry biomass prior to processing—eliminating a step and reducing the cost of upgrading;

  • Does not rely on external enzymes, uses water as a cost-effective catalyst;

  • No external hydrogen required (reduces cost of production);

  • Higher yields: use all the biomass, 30 – 40% yield, 2+ bbls per oven dry tonne (odt) feedstock;

  • Able to process any form of ligno-cellulosic material and produce a range of finished products;

  • Ability to mix feedstocks—and greater project scale potential, lower production costs.

IER operates via three subsidiaries: Ignite Resources Pty. Ltd. (applying Cat-HTR to lignite); Licella Pty. Ltd. (applying Cat-HTR to biomass); and Gippsland Gas Pty. Ltd. (biogenic natural gas resource). Within IER’s resource division are the exploration rights to a 16 billion tonne lignite deposit, which represents 8% of the world’s economically recoverable lignite.

Licella uses the Cat-HTR platform to convert a variety of low-cost, non-edible biomass into a stable biocrude oil, which can be refined, in a conventional refinery, into next generation biofuels and biochemicals. Licella’s Cat-HTR can theoretically process any form of ligno-cellulosic biomass, without the need to dry the feedstock prior to processing.

Over the past eight years Licella has invested AUD$60 million (US$43 million) in its technology development, conservatively yet progressively scaling up its Cat-HTR platform to its current generation three version. Licella is now on track to scale up to its generation four version (only a ten times scale up), aligned to be the commercial scale module of its now tried and tested reactor.

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