A solution to Australia’s soft plastics woes

A solution to Australia’s soft plastics woes

Posted on February 21, 2023 by DrRossH in Plastic Recycling


Licella soft plastics

Licella is a company that uses hydrothermal liquefaction, or HTL, an innovative form of advanced recycling. Licella’s HTL technology is called the Cat-HTR (which stands for Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor). This method of processing uses hot, pressurised water to recycle carbon from plastic, while using less energy than other methods such as pyrolysis and gasification. It also moves hydrogen from the water into the newly created oil, making the oil easier to upgrade in a conventional refinery with much lower impurity levels. Licella has been developing the process over the past 14 years, and it’s now being built at-scale commercially. 

“With the Cat-HTR we can create a high-grade oil, which is suitable to go back into the local plastic supply chain without any further purification steps, which is a big point of difference against pyrolysis,” said Licella marketing director Andrea Polson. “We operate at lower temperatures as well because we use water, so it’s a very efficient process. And we can get a higher yield of oil from a broader mix of plastics. We don’t need to do a huge amount of separation or decontamination at the front end.”

What will the quality of the product be like once it is processed? High, according to Polson and they already have a market for most of it.

“Our plasti-crude oil has several interested offtake parties. In general they would likely utilise the ISCC Plus mass balance approach, where for every tonne of our recycled oil we put in, it offsets one tonne of fossil oil,” said Polson. “What we do is use that recycled oil to offset as a 100 per cent replacement for fossil fuels and that basically goes back round through the supply chain as something like polypropylene.”

The conversion rate of soft plastics to oil will be between 80 and 85 per cent, meaning that when the plant is running at full capacity, 120,000 tonnes of soft plastics will produce approximately 100,000 tonnes of oil. Polson said that the company undertook a feasibility study that also showed a 64 per cent reduction in CO2 during the lifetime of the plastic-produced oil compared to imported oil.