Converting Wood Pulp Waste into Biocrude

Teresa Madaleno

Scientists in Australia have come up with a way to use waste from papermaking to develop a petroleum substitute, biocrude oil.

Environmental Newswire reports that Licella, an Australian start-up will convert biomass, including wood residues into biocrude that is ready to go to petrochemical refinery streams to generate renewable fuels.

The company has come to an agreement with Canadian pulp and paper producer CanFor, one of the world’s largest producers of sustainable wood. Licella management have indicated they will take wood residues from Canfor’s pulping process and that an ITQ laboratory in Spain has shown that it is in fact possible to upgrade the biocrude to kerosene and diesel, using refinery infrastructure.

While many biofuels are considered unstable and can be difficult to transport and difficult to blend, Licella’s biofuel has proven stable, as well as easier to transport and blend.

CanFor is planning to build biocrude plants in order to transform the “resource-intensive” pulp and paper industry.

Experts at Licella have said that only 30 percent of a tree actually becomes paper, while the rest goes to waste. They are simply using the waste to make a new product. In this case the new product is biocrude oil. The process to develop the oil did not happen easily. It took close to a decade and a lot of consultation with chemists. Officials at the University of Sydney ended up partnering with Licella to develop the conversion technology. The Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR) converts low-cost, waste biomass into crude oil. With the Cat-HTR there is no need to dry the feedstock before processing.

Some industry experts hope that using the whole tree instead of just some parts will move the world towards biorefining.

Licella invested a reported 60 million dollars in developing its technology.