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Project overview
  • Lead Organisation

    Licella Pty Ltd


    North Sydney, New South Wales

    ARENA Program

    Advancing Renewables Program

  • Start date

    11 February 2013

    End date

    5 March 2015

  • Project Partners
    This bioenergy project was completed on 5 March 2015.


This project undertook a feasibility study into the construction and operation of a pre-commercial biofuels plant that converts inedible plant material (biomass) into a bio-crude oil with similar characteristics to traditional fossil crude.

Key results

The project delivered a full feasibility package and investment business case for a 50,000 oven dried tonnes (ODT) biomass pre-commercial plant. Licella also negotiated formal agreements with biomass suppliers and off-takers for bio-crude and bio-chemicals necessary for achieving financial close for a pre-commercial plant.

Key lessons learned from the project relevant to the bioenergy industry include:

  • Optimisation of plant design has significant implications on the capital and operational costs, and revenues which impact the overall viability of biofuel plants
  • Value of co-products (i.e. bio-chemicals) are critical in improving the overall economics of biofuel plants
  • Lack of bio-crude refining infrastructure is a significant barrier to the biofuels industry in Australia.

Project innovation

This project aims to attract capital investment that would enable the construction of Licella’s first pre-commercial bio-crude oil production plant in Australia.

With ARENA’s support, Licella undertook a techno-commercial feasibility study into the construction and operation of a pre-commercial plant which is anticipated to produce 125,000 barrels of bio-crude oil, and 500,000 barrels of bio-chemical pre-cursors per annum.

The project further developed and validated Licella’s Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR) technology, which converts biomass into a bio-crude oil with similar characteristics to traditional fossil crude, at the current pilot plants being run at the company’s Somersby site in New South Wales.

The project also tested other potential sources of biomass for conversion to bio-crude, evaluated the best methods for refining the bio-crude to advanced drop-in fuels (biofuels that can directly be added to fossil liquid fuels), identified other bio-chemical products that can be produced by the process, and carried out engine testing of selected fuels.

The feasibility study delivered a FEED (front end engineering design) of the pre-commercial plant, which could be scaled up to a full commercial plant (output capacity 1 million barrels of bio-crude per annum) and formal agreements with the suppliers of biomass and customers for the finished products.


The construction and successful operation of a pre-commercial plant on the scale envisaged in this project will prove the commercial viability of the technology and open up the way for further plants to be developed.

This is expected to result in displacement of imported fossil crude oil currently used for our transport and chemical needs with renewable crude oil.

With these plants being constructed in rural areas they will deliver a much needed boost to regional communities through investment, growth and employment as well as a positive consequence for the environment, sustainability and fuel security.

The cost effective conversion of inedible plant material (called biomass) into liquid fuels could help to reduce Australia’s reliance on fuel imports as well as significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the use of fossil fuels including in the transport industry.

Last updated
29 January 2021
Last updated 29 January 2021
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