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Biofuels Digest – The Competitive Edge: Licella

The Biofuels Digest, the world’s most widely read biofuels daily, has profiled Licella in its Competitive Edge feature.

The Competitive Edge: Licella

July 11, 2019

Read the article on the Biofuels Digest here

Q: What was the reason for founding your organization – what was the open niche you saw that could be addressed with a new product or service? What was the problem, or gap, or opportunity?

The Cat-HTR platform was invented in Australia by Dr Len Humphreys (Licella CEO) and Prof Thomas Maschmeyer. Having identified the limitations of traditional biomass to biocrude techniques, they turned conventional thinking on its head. The high water content of biomass had always been an issue for techniques such as pyrolysis, requiring feedstock to be dried prior to processing adding significant costs.

The breakthrough happened when they realised that water need not be the enemy and instead embraced water as the agent of change. Lignite became the feedstock and water the processing medium in late 2006. This lead to a simpler and much more economical upgrading process. The same Cat-HTR transformation principles that work for lignite can, with modifications, be applied to pulp and paper residues. This is how Licella was formed in 2007. We are today excited to be moving towards our fourth generation and commercial scale Cat-HTR plants with plants with our partners.

Q: What was the reason for founding your organization – what was the open niche you saw that could be addressed with a new product or service? What was the problem, or gap, or opportunity?

The Cat-HTR platform was invented in Australia by Dr Len Humphreys (Licella CEO) and Prof Thomas Maschmeyer. Having identified the limitations of traditional biomass to biocrude techniques, they turned conventional thinking on its head. The high water content of biomass had always been an issue for techniques such as pyrolysis, requiring feedstock to be dried prior to processing adding significant costs.

The breakthrough happened when they realised that water need not be the enemy and instead embraced water as the agent of change. Lignite became the feedstock and water the processing medium in late 2006. This lead to a simpler and much more economical upgrading process. The same Cat-HTR transformation principles that work for lignite can, with modifications, be applied to pulp and paper residues. This is how Licella was formed in 2007. We are today excited to be moving towards our fourth generation and commercial scale Cat-HTR plants with plants with our partners.

Q: Tell us about your organization. What do you do?

Licella’s Cat-HTR (Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor), is the most commercially advanced hydrothermal upgrading platform globally. With over $75M invested over 10 years of development, the Cat-HTR is the only platform of its kind proven at large pilot scale.

The Cat-HTR platform is now commercial-ready and Licella are working with our strategic partners to build the world’s first commercial-scale hydrothermal upgrading plants.

Licella’s biocrude is renewable, stable, miscible and non-corrosive. Licella’s biocrude is capable of being blended within a conventional refinery to produce drop-in biofuels and valuable biochemicals.

Q: What do your technologies, products or services do and accomplish – how does it (they) work, who is it (they) aimed for?

Using water at near or supercritical temperatures, the Cat-HTR converts a wide variety of low-cost, waste feedstocks and residues into high-value products.

The Cat-HTR has been extensively tested at the world’s first large scale continuous-flow pilot plant, converting biomass residues, End of Life Plastic, non-edible biomass, used lubrication oil and lignite into a stable biocrude or synthetic crude oil.

Licella’s Cat-HTR platform can be fully integrated within our partners existing infrastructure, to provide a brand new revenue stream to industries such as pulp and paper and Resource Recovery.

By doing so, we are helping to provide a high value proposition for our partners low value residues, diverting End of Life Plastic and other residues from landfill and the natural environment and reducing our reliance on virgin fossil crude.

Q: Competitively, what gives your technology, product or service set an edge in cost or performance, sustainability, or any other aspect, that makes it stand out from the crowd, In short, what makes it transformative?

Licella’s Cat-HTR process is significantly less energy intensive relative to other technologies, including gasification to Fisher Tropsch synthesis, which need to add external hydrogen. Cat-HTR utilisies the hydrogen in the water of the feedstock.

The Cat-HTR’s modular design integrates into existing production facilities reducing cost and our carbon footprint, making it arguably one of the easiest platforms to scale-up commercially.

Summary of Cat-HTR Technical Advantages vs competitors:

– A truly versatile platform proven to process a wide variety of feedstocks;

– A highly controllable process that delivers a consistent and high quality oil;

– No need to dry biomass feedstock prior to processing;

– No need to add external hydrogen (significantly reduces cost of capital and production);

– Inexpensive catalysts used;

– The Cat-HTR process is a net producer of water it utilises the water within the feedstock.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you have accomplished in the past 3 years?

  1. 2016 – Licella and Canfor Pulp JV established. Provides a pathway to fund commercial biomass plant, to be built at Canfor’s Prince George facility in Canada – which will be the largest second generation bio-refinery in the world. In 2017 Canfor was awarded a CA$13M non-repayable contribution through Sustainable Development Technology Canada.
  2. 2017 – Licella and Armstrong Energy JV established to commercialise the Cat-HTR for End-of-Life Plastics globally (Australia exempt from JV). The first commercial plant sub-licensed and funded in the UK (ReNew ELP formed). In 2018 we announced the collaboration with Neste to explore the potential of using mixed waste plastic as a raw material for fuels, chemicals, and new plastics.
  3. 2017/2018 – Licella forms iQ Renew alongside Australian recycler Stop Waste to commercialise the Cat-HTR for End-of-Life Plastics in Australia. iQ Renew profiled on War on Waste – the first company in Australia to combine physical and chemical recycling of plastic.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you will accomplish in the next 3 years?

  1. 2020 – The first commercial Cat-HTR plant comes online in the UK, as part of the JV with Armstrong Energy. This commercial plant will be built in Wilton in the North East of the UK and will convert 20,000 tonnes of End-of-Life Plastic per annum. The JV will sub-license the Cat-HTR technology for End-of-Life Plastics to waste producers globally.
  2. 2020/2021 – iQ Renew to build the first commercial Cat-HTR in Australia, targeting End-of-Life Plastics.
  3. 2021/2022 – First commercial Cat-HTR plant to be built for biomass, as part of the JV with Canfor Pulp. This will transform Canfor’s Prince George facility into a bio-refinery capable of producing renewable crude at a comparable price to conventional crude, while having a >80% carbon intensity reduction. At 500,000 bbl/annum biocrude production, the plant will be one of the largest “2nd generation” bio-refineries in the world.