Air New Zealand A320. By Rob Finlayson

Air New Zealand (NZ) has signed memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with Australia-based Licella Pty Ltd to examine developing and marketing a process to convert woody biomass into sustainable aviation biofuel in New Zealand. 

Licella has developed a process that uses a Catalytic Hydro Thermal Reactor (Cat-HTR), which converts woody materials and other biomass into a high-quality, bio-crude oil in a one-step process.

NZ deputy CEO Norm Thompson said NZ is collaborating with a number of parties to research and develop bio-derived sustainable fuels that can be used to progressively replace conventional aviation fuels, with a particular focus on developing a local aviation biofuel industry in New Zealand.

NZ and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise have been working closely with Licella and Norske Skog for more than two years exploring opportunities for the technology in New Zealand.

Licella Fiber Fuels, a new joint venture formed by Licella and Norske Skog Australasia, holds the exclusive license of proprietary knowledge and IP for converting sustainable ligno-cellulosic biomass into a bio-crude oil using the Cat-HTR.

Licella CEO Steve Rogers said the joint venture will hopefully lead to construction of a large-scale second generation bio-crude oil production plant in New Zealand or Australia. 

In a related move, Virgin Australia also signed an MOU with Licella focusing on agricultural and farm waste biomass into sustainable aviation fuel.

Licella’s goal is to produce 500,000 barrels of bio-crude oil a year by 2015-16.