Our story

Licella™ – A Bridge to a Lower Carbon Future

Transforming biomass, plastics and residues into renewable fuels and chemicals

Our unique hydrothermal upgrading platform, the Cat-HTR™ (Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor), can rapidly and economically transform a wide range of biomass, waste and industry residues into biocrude to produce advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals (biochemicals).

Licella™ is the global leader in hydrothermal upgrading – the process of chemically transforming biomass and other organic based material (even non-recyclable plastic!) into a biocrude oil, which can be refined to advanced biofuels and biochemicals. Hydrothermal upgrading is now widely accepted as one of the most likely production pathways for producing advanced drop-in biofuels at scale.

Why hydrothermal upgrading?

Unlike techniques such as pyrolysis, hydrothermal upgrading with Licella’s Cat-HTR™ platform produces a stable biocrude which can be easily shipped, is not acidic and is miscible (blendable) with conventional oil.

Facilities

Cat-HTR

Where it all began…

The revolutionary Cat-HTR™ platform was invented in Australia by Dr Len Humphreys, Licella™ CEO, and Professor Thomas Maschmeyer. Having identified the limitations and issues associated with traditional biomass to biocrude transformation techniques, they set about on a journey which would lead them to turn conventional thinking on its head. The high water content of biomass had always been an issue for techniques such as pyrolysis, requiring the feedstock to be dried prior to processing – adding significant costs. Dr Humphreys and Professor Maschmeyer realised that water need not be the enemy and instead embraced water as the agent of change.

The invention of the Cat-HTR™ technology

 “We began developing the Cat-HTR™ technology in 2005, from a related approach involving the use of supercritical methanol to convert edible oils to biodiesel.

While the technology approach was correct, the timing was not, as it came at the same time as the growing debate of feedstock versus foodstock. It was clear that we needed a feedstock which was non-edible, abundant and low cost.

Lignite (brown coal) became the new feedstock, and water the processing medium in late 2006.

For many decades people had tried to upgrade lignite by drying it. The breakthrough for us happened when we turned this approach on its head – embracing water as the agent of change, not the enemy.

This lead to a simpler and much more economical upgrading process.

From ancient to modern biomass, from demonstration to commercialisation

Lignite is effectively aged lignin (one of the key components of a tree alongside cellulose and hemicellulose). When a tree falls down, the celluloses are removed by microbial action and the lignin ages within the ground to form peat and then, over time, lignite. So lignite is just ancient biomass, given that a few tens of millions of years ago it was a tree.

The same Cat-HTR™ transformational principles that work for lignite can, with some modifications, also be applied to modern biomass, such as pulp and paper residues. This is how Licella™ was formed in 2007.

In 2007 the first design of the Cat-HTR™ (Generation 1) was completed and this very first plant was commissioned in early 2008. We are today incredibly excited to be moving towards our fourth generation and commercial scale Cat-HTR™ plants with our partners.”

Our corporate history

Licella™ was established to commercialise the opportunities of Cat-HTR™ on biomass in 2007. Later in 2008 the first Cat-HTR™ pilot plant was commissioned in Somersby. In 2009 Licella™ became a wholly owned subsidiary of Ignite Energy Resources (IER).

2007

Licella™ founded

First provisional patents filed.

2008

Raises A$8.6m.

First pilot plant commissioned.

2009

Licella™ acquired.

2010

Licella™ awarded A$2.3m grant to upscale pilot plant.

2011

Raises A$20m for technology development.

Large pilot plant opens to trial biomass and lignite following 3 years of successful trials.

2012

Licella™ awarded A$2m Australian Government grant for further development of large pilot plant.

2012

Partners with ESSO Ventures resulting in capital available for resource and technology development.

2014

Awarded A$5.4m grant from Australian Government for Cat-HTR™ biomass engineering.

2016

Licella™ Canfor Pulp JV established. Provides a pathway to fund commercial biomass plant.

2017

Licella™ Armstrong Chemicals JV established. First commercial plant sub-licensed and funded.

Canfor Pulp awarded C$13m SDTC grant towards JV with Licella™.