In Australia, bioprocess technology developer Licella Holdings Ltd (Licella) has announced the successful initial commissioning of its upgraded "Cat-HTR" (Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor) commercial demonstration plant. The state-of-the-art Commercial Stage 1 (CS-1) facility represents the culmination of over fourteen years of successful, steady technology development into the Cat-HTR, the company’s pioneering hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) technology.
CS-1 is co-owned with Canadian Forest Products Ltd (Canfor), a global leader in the manufacturing of sustainable forest products, through its joint venture, Arbios Biotech. It is built around the core of Licella’s large pilot plant on the Central Coast in New South Wales (NSW), Australia.
Carbon efficient conversion process
According to Licella, its Cat-HTR is a “powerful decarbonization platform” that produces high-value, low-carbon products, such as renewable transportation fuels and biochemicals. The CS-1 facility represents a universal HTL platform that has the ability to process the widest range of post-consumer biomass residues and plastics in the world.
Licella CEO, Dr Len Humphreys, said that the new CS-1 facility will be capable of producing up to 140 barrels of sustainable oil per day, a direct substitute for fossil crude, from post-consumer biomass and plastics.
We believe that our upgraded Cat-HTR facility is the largest operational plant of its kind in the world today. The commissioning of CS-1 acts as the catalyst to support the growing commercial roll-out of our Cat-HTR technology globally. It is an exciting commercial milestone, said Dr Humphreys.
Whilst conventional thermal upgrading technologies, such as pyrolysis and gasification, were developed in a less carbon-constrained world, the Cat-HTR has been developed to retain as much carbon in its products as possible. This results in a higher efficiency process that produces high-quality, stable, and energy-dense oil.
By using water to control the thermo-chemical reactions, the Cat-HTR process operates at lower temperatures, using less energy, and retains more carbon in its products, compared to pyrolysis and gasification. This makes the platform well suited to a carbon-constrained world.
By comparison, pyrolysis and gasification are uncontrolled reactions, resulting in a significant percentage of carbon from the feedstock ending up as either solid char or gas (CO2).
Cat-HTR poised for commercial deployment
The Licella team, based on the NSW Central Coast, has continued successful trial programs alongside the commissioning of the CS-1 facility. By taking advantage of remote monitoring and video access, the team made significant technical progress in a coronavirus (COVID-19) constrained environment, enabling the company, and its global partners, to make significant commercial progress.
This progress included Arbios Biotech this year forming a global alliance with Shell Catalysts & Technologies, to utilize Shell’s upgrader technology in its Cat-HTR commercial plants and create an end-to-end biorefinery solution.
Some of the first biocrude produced from the new Cat-HTR CS-1 facility will be shipped to Shell’s facilities in Amsterdam, the Netherlands for upgrading. In addition, Cat-HTR renewable biocrude can be fed into existing refinery infrastructure, a direct substitute for fossil-derived equivalents.
In parallel, Mura Technology (Mura) is building the first commercial HTL facility for waste plastic, with the Cat-HTR technology at its core, in the UK through its subsidiary ReNew ELP. Mura, who have a global strategic alliance with KBR, recently announced an agreement with Mitsubishi Chemical to build an advanced recycling plant in Japan, with Licella’s Cat-HTR technology at its core.