Research Centre Spotlight: ICFAR


March 20, 2013

The Institute for Chemicals and Fuels from Alternative Resources (ICFAR) at Western University is committed to being a leader in the development of technologies and processes that produce chemicals and fuels from alternative resources – with an emphasis on green engineering and environmental sustainability.

ICFAR’s researchers strive to quickly move research from the laboratory to large demonstration projects at ICFAR and on to industry – paving the way for Canadian biofuel and chemical leadership in the global marketplace.

What is ICFAR?

  • ICFAR addresses global issues including energy deficits, pollution and waste.
  • Officially opened in 2009, ICFAR is a 20,000-square-foot research facility where researchers scale up laboratory concepts, using several pilot plants and demonstration units.
  • Based near Ilderton, Ontario, ICFAR works with government as well as the agricultural and other industries on next generation biofuels and high value products using forestry residues, non-food crops and other sources of biomass, like municipal solid wastes.
  • Educating tomorrow’s innovators is a high priority for ICFAR.  With the capacity for over 60 highly qualified personnel, ICFAR researchers and staff work with the students, postdoctoral fellows, visiting professors, and government scientists on fundamental and service projects.


  • Design and construction of fluidized bed flash pyrolysis units; e.g., an easy to operate 1 to 10 kg/hr alternative fuel production unit that can convert a wide variety of organic feedstocks to bio-oil, biochar and gas.
  • Design and construction of pulse injection biomass feeders to be used in conjunction with fluidized bed flash pyrolysis pilot plants.
  • Production of bio-oil and biochar samples through flash pyrolysis of specified feedstocks under a variety of operating conditions.
  • Analysis of bio-oil, biochar as well as produced gases, including yields, elemental analysis, heating value, water content (bio-oil), calorific content (biochar), gas chromatography.
  • Design and testing of novel technologies used in fluidized beds and in flash pyrolysis.


  • Interdisciplinary research with experts from the Faculties of Engineering, Science, the Richard Ivey School of Business and Western’s Research Park.
  • Partnerships have been developed with many companies worldwide, with ICFAR offering both technical services and participating in collaborative research projects.
  • Industry partners include: Syncrude Canada, FPInnovations, Imperial Oil Limited, Arclin Canada Inc. among many others.  In addition, Agri-Therm Inc. is a spin-off company, founded by ICFAR directors Franco Berruti and Cedric Briens.
  • Sharing common goals, ICFAR and Sarnia Ontario’s Bioindustrial Innovation Centre have worked collaboratively towards establishing Canada as a global leader in the development of sustainable biorefining and biofuel industries.
  • ICFAR was the coordinating centre of the Agricultural Biorefinery Innovation Network (ABIN), a national venture that brought together more than 70 researchers from 16 institutions to develop integrated biorefining processes for effectively and economically converting renewable biomass into energy, fuels and chemicals.
  • ICFAR is leading Lignoworks, an NSERC strategic research network that strives to provide alternatives to fossil fuel feedstocks by creating technology platforms for lignin-based chemicals and materials.
  • ICFAR leads the central platform of the NCE BioFuelNet, creating a model biorefinery system that will produce, through thermochemical processes, sustainable, infrastructure-compatible, high quality hybrid fuels and chemicals, as well as energy and power, from renewable feedstocks.
  • Government sponsors include: Canada Foundation for Innovation, Ontario Research Foundation, NSERC, NCE, NRCan, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada among others.

Current Projects

ICFAR’s researchers are currently working on a number of projects, including:

  • Developing pyrolysis technologies for the production of bio-oils and bio-char from a wide variety of biomass materials
  • Developing hydrothermal liquefaction technologies for biocrude production from biomass and wastewater sludge
  • Producing high performance activated char from biomass
  • Developing Fluid Coking technologies
  • Developing a mobile and easily operated pyrolysis plant, with a capacity of 2.5 tonnes/day
  • Developing a waterless toilet system for developing countries.
  • Converting lignin and other types of biomass to high value products through fast pyrolysis, including drop-in fuels, pesticides, flavors, phenolic resins, polyurethanes, and pharmaceuticals.


  • Franco Berruti, Director (General), co-founder of ICFAR, Professor of Chemical Engineering
  • Cedric Briens, Director (Research & Development), co-founder of ICFAR, Professor of Chemical Engineering
  • Chunbao (Charles) Xu, NSERC/FPInnovations Associate Industrial Research Chair in Forest Biorefinery, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering
  • Lars Rehmann, Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biochemical Engineering
  • Paul Charpentier, Professor, Chemical and Biochemical Engineering
  • Jason Gerhard, Canada Research Chair in Geoenvironmental Restoration Engineering, Associate Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering, Research Director of Geotechnical Research Centre

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