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Licella and Canfor launch Arbios Biotech advanced biofuels joint venture

Australia headed bioprocess technology developer Licella Holdings Ltd (Licella) has announced that it has entered into a new joint venture, Arbios Biotech (Arbios), with Canadian Forest Products Ltd (Canfor). With a vision to provide low-carbon circular economy solutions around the world using Licella’s breakthrough Cat-HTR technology, Arbios will create high-value, sustainable carbon-based products, including advanced biofuels, from post-consumer biomass and residues.

Licella Holdings Ltd (Licella) has entered into a new joint venture with Canadian Forest Products Ltd (Canfor). Called Arbios Biotech (Arbios), the JV aims to provide low-carbon circular economy solutions around the world using Licella’s breakthrough Cat-HTR technology, Arbios will create high-value, sustainable carbon-based products, including advanced biofuels, from post-consumer biomass and residues (photo courtesy Arbios).

Recognizing the Cat-HTR technology’s proven flexibility, Arbios has increased its feedstock optionality. Complementing Canfor Pulp and Licella’s existing efforts on deploying the Cat-HTR technology in an integrated pulp plant setting, Arbios’ sources of feedstock include a wide range of post-consumer biomass and residues.

Given the significant potential upside from stand-alone plant applications, Arbios is currently prioritizing efforts to commercialize the Cat-HTR technology in this setting. Licella CEO, Dr Len Humphreys, said that Arbios represents the coming together of two global leaders with a shared vision.

Arbios’ mission is for a low-carbon circular economy around the world. By combining Canfor’s extensive experience in the execution of large capital projects, forestry, and large commercial plant operations with Licella’s industry-leading Cat-HTR technology and innovative thinking, Arbios’ world-class team is pioneering a sustainable bioeconomy, said Dr Humphreys.

Advanced biofuels, biochemicals, and biomaterials

According to Licella, its Cat-HTR technology delivers industry-leading greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, with the carbon intensity (CI) of Arbios’ biocrude being at least 80 percent less than that of conventional crude.

This CI reduction is achieved through the combination of high energy-efficient processes alongside the diversion of post-consumer biomass and organics from landfills, as well as reducing the demand for virgin fossil crude extraction.

Charged with stewardship of a carbon-rich natural resource in many parts of the world, the forestry industry is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in our world’s transition to a low-carbon future. Arbios represents an exciting opportunity for Canfor, in partnership with Licella, to make an impactful contribution to that transition, said Alan Nicholl, Canfor’s Chief Financial Officer, and EVP Finance and Canfor Pulp Products Inc.

Arbios will be principally focused on the advanced biofuel sector in the short-to-medium term, reflecting its positive environmental footprint as well as the current market stimulus for low-carbon liquid transportation fuels in various parts of North America and Canada.

Longer-term, Arbios believes its proprietary technology will enable it to expand into other highly attractive opportunities such as the biochemical and biomaterial sectors.

Australian commercial demo under commissioning

The first stage towards commercialization of a stand-alone Cat-HTR plant, Commercial Stage 1 (CS-1), is well underway at Licella’s facility in Somersby on the New South Wales (NSW) Central Coast, Australia.

Despite various challenges presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Licella team in Australia has completed a number of successful trial runs on its Cat-HTR small pilot plant for Arbios, and also commenced commissioning of the CS-1 plant.

Full commissioning and feedstock testing for Arbios’ CS-1 plant is on track for the end of Q1 2021. Once completed, this CS-1 facility will process up to 5 000 tonnes of feedstock (producing approximately 10 000 barrels) annually and is anticipated to be one of the largest Hydrothermal Liquefaction (HTL) facilities in the world.

Feedstock and product offtake discussions are also moving ahead according to schedule. Arbios Chairman Don Roberts said that the company is actively pursuing partnerships to help them achieve their ambitious goals.

As we embrace the challenge to fulfill Arbios’ vision and mission, we’ve assembled a team with relevant experience that spans three continents and multiple disciplines. Having said that, we have set ambitious goals and continue to seek out new partnerships to help us reach these goals. Collaboration is in our DNA – by design and necessity, commented Don Roberts.

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