The Licella Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR™) at Somersby, NEw South Wales, Australia (Photo courtesy Licella)
By Sunny Lewis
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, June 28, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Canfor Pulp Products Inc. has formed a joint venture with an Australian energy startup to convert biomass from its kraft pulping processes into biocrude oil that can be blended into petrochemical refinery streams to generate renewable fuels.
Publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, Vancouver-based Canfor Pulp is the largest North American producer of Northern bleached softwood kraft, used for manufacturing printing and writing paper and tissue products.
Based in Sydney, Australia, the startup Licella has developed the unique process in partnership with the University of Sydney. Their Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR™) technology converts low-cost, non-edible, waste biomass from pulping into biocrude oil.
The biocrude can then be used to produce next generation biofuels and biochemicals.
The ITQ laboratory in Valencia, Spain has demonstrated the upgrade of Licella’s biocrude to kerosene and diesel utilizing standard refinery infrastructure.
CanFor President Brett Robinson says Licella’s Cat-HTR™ technology could transform their company. “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,” he said.
Currently, pulp and paper waste is burned for low-quality process heat. But now Licella’s Cat-HTR technology can theoretically process any form of lignocellulosic biomass, without the need to dry the feedstock before processing nor transport it over long distances at great expense.
Sugars derived from lignocellulosic biomass already have been fermented to produce bio-ethanol, and other lignocellulose-derived fuels are of potential interest, including butanol, but the unique Licella process is not based on fermentation.
Biomass waste from the pulpmaking process at a Canfor pulp mill in Prince George, British Columbia. (Photo courtesy Licella)
Licella’s process uses a supercritical water-based technology and catalysts to break up the pulp waste biomass and reform it into biocrude. It uses all of the biomass, including lignin and provides all its own process heat and water. Uniquely, it is a net producer of water.
The Licella process produces a stable, blendable bio-oil that is expected to be competitive with petroleum fuel.
The Licella process has a small physical footprint compared to fermentation technologies because of its continuous flow design and a rapid processing time measured in minutes, not days.
Licella was co-founded by University of Sydney chemistry professor Dr. Thomas Maschmeyer, who saw a way to make use of the millions of tons of biomass waste left from the pulping process each year around the globe.
“Only 30 percent or so of a tree becomes paper, the rest is waste. We use this waste to make a new product – biocrude oil from renewable, already aggregated waste,” Maschmeyer explained.
Over the past nine years Licella has invested A$60 million in its technology development. “After nine years of very hard work by an amazing team of individuals at Licella and the university, it is extremely pleasing to see this Australian green technology going global; it will make a substantial impact,” Maschmeyer said.
“In the pulp and paper industry worth billions of dollars, this shift will have global impact for good,” he said.
Licella CEO Dr. Len Humphreys said, “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 utilize the entire tree, rather than part of the tree.”
“Using the whole tree and not just a minor part will move the industry towards biorefining,” said Humphreys.
The Cat-HTR™ upgrading platform will be integrated into Canfor Pulp’s kraft and mechanical pulp mills in Prince George, British Columbia.
Licella is a subsidiary of Licella Pty. Limited, which in turn is a subsidiary of Ignite Energy Resources Ltd., an Australian public unlisted natural resource and energy technology development company.
In late May, Licella Fibre Fuels Pty Ltd. and the publicly-traded Canfor Pulp Products Inc. signed an agreement to form a joint venture under the name Licella Pulp Joint Venture.
The agreement follows a successful program of preliminary trials conducted on feedstock from Canfor Pulp’s Prince George pulp mill at Licella’s pilot plants located at Somersby, an hour north of Sydney 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.
CPPI chief executive Don Kayne said, “Biofuels and biochemicals represent the next frontier in the utilization of sustainable wood fibre to produce green energy and chemicals.”
“This initiative underscores Canfor Pulp’s commitment to innovation and the importance of green energy and chemicals in our future product mix, and we look forward to developing this potentially transforming technology with Licella,” he said.
Upon successful integration of the Cat-HTR™ technology, the Licella Pulp joint venture will look at offering this technology to other third party pulp mills.