One of the world’s largest logging companies is looking to get into the oil business.

Canfor is in the early phases of developing what would be the first ever commercial-scale biocrude oil plant. The logging company is looking to convert wood waste from its pulp mills into mass quantities of crude oil at a new facility in Prince George.

“In the next few years we’ll be announcing a project and building a real facility that will produce upwards of 400,000 barrels of oil a year,” said Bret Robinson, president of Canfor Pulp.

The impending project comes after Canfor formed a joint venturewith Australian biofuel production start-up Licella to explore the economic possibilities for large-scale biocrude production plants.

The partnership formed after Licella successfully converted wood waste from Canfor’s Prince George mill into a stable biocrude that’s nearly indistinguishable from traditional crude oil.

Canfor plans to invest funds to integrate Licella’s technology into their current pulp mills. The new project would streamline waste directly from their pulp mills, coupled with virgin fibre, into an attached crude oil processing facility that will cost upwards of $70 million.

The biocrude can seemlessly fit into the existing refining infrastructure to produce petroleum products, according to both Robinson and Licella CEO Len Humphries.

A partner from down under

“We spent about $60 million AUD on developing the technology,” said Humphries.

Licella has spent the last eight years refining and scaling up the technology, and began trials converting mill waste from Canfor’s Prince George mills in 2013.

Current plans are to send engineers from Licella to Canada to train Canfor workers on the technology.

“The whole intent is for us to do a knowledge transfer,” said Humphries, adding that the new facility will look to employ local operators.

Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall believes the plant will not only help create jobs in the town, but also define Prince George as a leader in bioenergy.

“We really are, from a community perspective, on the forefront of bioenergy,” said Hall. “And not just in Canada, quite frankly, but throughout the world.”