CHAR Technologies – Decarbonizing for a Circular Economy

Company: Char Technologies Ltd
Listing: TSX Venture, US OTC
Tickers: $YES.V / $CTRNF
Market cap: 45 MCAD at time of publication
Share price: 0.64 CAD at time of publication
Comparable peers:
Xebec, $XBC Market cap $642 MCAD
Greenlane renewables, $GRN, Mcap $210 MCAD

Short summary:

We are initiating coverage on the Canadian cleantech company Char Technologies which is the leading cleantech and environmental services provider when it comes to converting woody materials and organic waste into renewable natural gases (RNG), hydrogen and biocarbon. They are thereby taking care of existing waste and turning this into valuable commodities.  Char technologies is converting challenging organic streams into greenhouse gas neutral biocoal, second generation Renewable Natural Gas”(RNG)” and hydrogen.

Some of the company’s competitors such as Xebec & Greenlane renewables both participate in first-generation anaerobic digestion (biogas) technology , Char technologies has what is known as second generation biogas technology .

Char Technologies currently has proposals out for over $100 million in projects and consulting activities. They also have a strong balance sheet with NO Debt ,a current burnrate of 2 million CAD per year, and a market cap of only $45 million CAD!

Stock history background:

Char technologies
went public in March of 2016 through a qualifying transaction with a capital pool company with an IPO price of $0,17 CAD.
The stock has had tremendous success during last 12 months with an increase in share price of 436 %. We believe however that the journey has only just begun since the evaluation is still at a nano cap level of only 45 MCAD and especially considering the huge current pipeline of projects the company has coming valued at over $100 Million . The pipeline consists of about 70 % systems sales and 30 % consists of building own operating facilities.

Company structure:

Char technologies consists of the two subdivisions Altech and Chartech Solutions .
Altech is an environmental consulting division that focuses on environmental solutions mainly towards industrial clients. A few of the services worth mentioning include environmental audits, ESG public reporting ,wastewater management and regulatory services.

Chartech Solutions is the division focusing on the company’s High Temperature Pyrolysis technology, and the biocarbon product from the technology called Cleanfyre which is a carbon negative emissions biocarbon that can replace regular coal in power plants. Biocarbon can also be used for agricultural improvements but this is not an area that Char technologies is pursuing at this moment. The production process also produces second generation of natural gas and hydrogen. The technology has been validated and tested for over two years and management is confident that the time is right for large scale operations. [1]

We believe that Chartech Solutions is the subdivision that will bring in most revenue for the company for a foreseeable future.


Giant Market opportunity for Cleanfyre:
The product Cleanfyre (biocarbon) from Char Technologies has the massive potential to replace the fossil fuel of natural coal in power plants and transportation. The global coal market alone is worth an estimated $366 billion USD and this is something that Char Technologies is aiming at taking a big stake in. The biggest advantage of the biocarbon product is that it does not require any change in the existing infrastructure of coal power plants and this is a BIG deal since the capex cost of these facilities generally is VERY high. Secondly the biocarbon from Char technologies is carbon negative . To quote CFO Mark Korol “ one ton of coal replaced with one(1) ton of Cleanfyre reduces GHG emissions by three (3) tons.”

Why is this of interest you may ask? Coal is today the SINGLE largest emitter of Carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Although China is by far the largest user of Coal approximately 62 percent of the electricity in the United states today comes from burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas. Burning one tonne of natural coal actually releases as much as 1892 kilograms of CO2 , the use of Coal has to be drastically reduced if the world is going to reach the goal of being Net-zero emission by 2050. In Canada (the home market of Char Technologies) the government has passed legislation which will increase the price of releasing CO2 per tonne to 170 CAD by 2030, today the price is 40 CAD per tonne. Canada today alone consumes close to 50 million tonnes of coal per year.

Many other governments around the world are following Canadas path of taxing coal consumption with the European Union being the pioneers and especially Sweden which has the highest carbon tax of the European Union with 108 Euros per metric tonne of CO2.  In the United states there are currently 11 states that have implemented carbon pricing, there is currently however no government to implement it on a national scale although it’s not a far fetched thought that this soon could become a reality with the new Biden administration. There is also a possibility of selling carbon credits on the open market as revenues if a customer of Char Technologies does not need all of the credits that they are eligible for. In conclusion the worlds energy consumption of coal is under harsh pressure by legislation and Char Technologies has the chance to provide many businesses and industries with a revolutionizing product that actually will be cheaper than regular coal.
It should also be mentioned that Char technologies produces both hydrogen and renewable natural gas in their pyrolysis process thanks to the high temperature. These are valuable by-products that can be sold to add extra revenues .Since the sales of biocarbon gives good revenues to Char Technologies they are able to sell the hydrogen and renewable natural gas produced at a very competitive pricing which improves the payback time of their plants considerably. The world will need 80 % of its renewable natural gas from this type of pyrolysis technology if it’s to meet the 2030 green target according to a study commissioned by Énergir. Another very positive side effect of the production process is that when processing biosolids the companys pyrolisis system destroys harmful PFAS particles in the waste/sludge from wastewater that is processed. These PFAS particles are a major concern in many countries!

Pricing model for biocarbon

The global coal market is segregated in terms of coal types and prices. Prices have plummeted due to Covid-19 and prices today vary from 40-125 $USD per tonne however this does NOT include carbon tax which differs between 30-150 USD per tonne globally. Typically industrial users will utilize a blend of different grades of coal.  The biocarbon from Char Technologies has a very high energy density this means one tonne of Cleanfyre can replace 1,1 tonnes of high-grade coal which typically is priced at $100-$125 per tonnes not including carbon credits.

The actual emissions of carbondioxide (CO2) for burning coal is the following simplified equation:

1 tonne of anthracite (fossil) coal consumed = 2.9 tonnes of GHG/CO2 released

1 tonne of CleanFyre consumed = 0.27 tonnes of GHGs (CO­2) released

1 tonne of CleanFyre replaces 1.1 tonnes of coal, so 1 tonne of CleanFyre can therefore reduce net GHGs by 2.9 tonnes.

The actual pricing in Canada of high-grade coal due to CO2 emissions equals $216 – $241 per tonne compared to 250 $ per tonne for Cleanfyre including carbon credits. As we previously stated the current tax credit for CO2 emissions in Canada is 40 CAD per tonnes but this is set to increase to 170 CAD by 2030. Therefore Cleanfyre from Char Technologies will become CHEAPER than regular coal already by 2022 with added ESG benefits. If you instead look at Sweden, in the European Union , Cleanfyre is actually CHEAPER today since the total price the product in Sweden equals $283 CAD per tonne including carbon tax credits.
In conclusion Cleanfyre from Char Technologies is today only slightly more expensive than regular coal but is set to become cheaper and with very good ESG benefits for coal consumers and therefore already by 2022 it will not make sense for producers to use regular coal over Cleanfyre.

Business model:
Char Technologies plans to both operate their own pyrolysis facilities and to sell their system for the production of the biocarbon product Cleanfyre. The company also sees opportunities for Joint Venture agreements for pyrolysis plants both domestic and abroad. There may also be revenue from recurring service and monitoring contracts and recurring biocarbon management fee. The purchase price for a customer of a facility that is capable of producing 25 000 tonnes of Cleanfyre per year ( and 500,000 GJ/yr RNG) amounts to ~30 million USD. The potential revenues for a facility of this size equals upwards of 25 Million CAD annually with good margins (50-80 %). This includes revenues from both Cleanfyre and the sale of the renewable natural gas or Hydrogen which is created in the manufacturing process of the biocarbon. The CAPEX for building a fully owned facility of 25 000 tonnes is about 30 million CAD.  According to the company the payback time on the capex can be as fast as 2 years.

Char Technologies Pyrolisis device

Intellectual property protection

Char Technologies, according to CEO Andrew White, has “a very defensible intellectual property position”. They believe they have protected how  to convert their feedstock into Cleanfyre, Hydrogen and renewable gas. The company also believes it would be very time consuming and costly for someone to even try to copy what they are doing.

Char technologies currently have 10 patents protecting their “recipe book” and also more patents have been filed.

According to CEO Andrew White the big differentiator for Char Technologies is that their pyrolisis system runs at 800 degrees Celsius, this is hotter than other pyrolysis plants, which allows them to create both biocarbon (cleanfyre) and also extract renewable natural gas /hydrogen.

The company has different competitors in different product segments.
For renewable natural gas there are many actors active in this segment such as Xebec. However Char Technologies has the advantage of being able to price their hydrogen and renewable natural gas at very competitive pricings as it’s a biproduct of the biocarbon production.

Looking at biosolids (biochar) there is, as far as we have found, only two commercial scale competitors in the United states.[1] One of these competitors is BioforceTech. The maximum output from a plant from BioforceTech  with a solid content of 95 % appears to be 7600 tonnes per year, in comparison Char Technologies plan to have an output of 25 000 tonnes per year for their upcoming facility. The largest competitor for Char Technologies for biocarbon in North America appears to be National Carbon. They claim to have the largest advanced biocarbon production facility in North America with capacity to convert hundreds of thousands of tons of biomass into patented carbon products, there is however no public information on their revenues or pricing. The market should however certainly be big enough for more than one big biochar actor.

CEO Andrew White of Char Technologies mentioned during our latest interview that they are not aware of any competitor that produces BOTH biocarbon AND renewable natural gas and we have yet to find anyone either. ESGFIRE has found two competitors mentioned above who produce biocarbon for coal plants and we have also found other potential biocarbon competitors such as bcbiocarbon and AIREX energy however these two companies do not appear to create high energy density coal and they do not appear sell their products to steel producers but instead they appear to be more focused on agriculture.

Char Technologies is not yet a profitable business and as such there are a number of risks that have to be addressed. Burnrate and financing risks is one main aspect. The company raised 6 million CAD in February of 2021. The warrants attached to the financing if they all are excercised will add another ~3,7 million CAD . As of March 31st the company was sitting at a cash balance of close to 6 million CAD. The company appears to have a pretty low burn rate of about 500 000 CAD per quarter. Assuming this does not increase the company should be fully funded (not taking into account larger projects) until Q3 of 2022. We think however that the company does have plans to soon build their own 25 000 tonnes facility so they will likely will be looking to take in more capital within the next 6-12 months. Most likely the financing of the 25 000 tonnes facility will consist of a mix of debt and equity. If the company is unsuccessful in funding their expansion it could pose a serious risk for the expansion plans. This risk could however be outweighed by a potential Joint Venture partnership should the company not be able to raise all funds needed by themselves. A joint Venture project for the 25000 tonnes facility could also be a way of expanding without further dilution. There are no known issues with the scalability of the biocarbon product Cleanfyre as of today, infact the company recently announced a 1000 tonne breakthrough order from one of Canada’s largest steel producers. The breakthrough order was a result of a  successful pilot production run of 20 tonnes. However, should there be any unexpected problems with the scalability of Cleanfyre then this is a risk that could severely impact the company’s revenue streams. As we have mentioned in the competitor section there is no extensive competition in the field today, putting price pressure on the biocarbon market. Should more serious competitors arise with access to better financings then this could pose a serious threat to the company’s expansion plans. However, it should be stated that there is likely room for more actors in the biocarbon business seeing as in Canada alone there is a need for close to 50 million tonnes of coal per year . One final longer term risk that should be mentioned is the possibility of steel refineries completely abandoning furnaces and switching to other types of energy sources such as hydrogen or other gasification processing.

Upcoming catalysts

There are a number of upcoming catalysts for Char Technologies. The company’s pilot plant today has a production capacity of 5 tonnes of Cleanfyre per day totalling a potential revenue of 900 000 CAD per year. Short term catalysts could be more orders for the BioCarbon product Cleanfyre and also clarification on when and how the company aims to begin construction of their planned 25 000 tonnes facility.
Medium term catalysts could likely be Joint Venture partnerships for co-owned facilities and long-term catalysts are likely licensing agreements to international partners for the patented production methods as a way of expanding internationally without the need for use of own capital expenses.

Conclusion and summary

Char Technologies is, as far as ESGFIRE can tell, the only publicly listed and investable company which produces both Biocarbon, Hydrogen and Renewable Natural Gas. The company appears to have a cost competitive and scalable product which, if the business plan is executed properly, has enormous growth potential. Assuming the company is able to take a 10 % market share of its domestic market it could equal revenues of $1.25 billion CAD with margins likely ranging between 50-80 %. This could in turn lead to an EBITDA profit in the range of 500-600 million CAD. The interest for ESG investments has exploded during 2020-2021 and the company should, in our honest opinion, have little trouble in attracting more capital to finance both their own facilities and also be able to find a Joint Venture partner for co-owned facilities where they won’t be forced to put in capital expenses to the same extent. There are also very exciting opportunities in licensing out their technology to third parties on other continents around the world.

Finally, the fact that on a global scale the world will need 80 % of its renewable natural gas from either gasification or pyrolysis is a huge competitive advantage for Char Technologies as they are able to offer very competitive pricing on their RNG and hydrogen thanks to the great pricing model of their biocarbon product. We think Char Technologies has a very exciting and bright journey ahead and we look forward to keeping our readers updated on their progress.

We own shares of this company personally.

Investing in stocks is combined with certain risks and it is possible to lose your entire investment. My posts are made for Educational purposes only and are not to be interpreted as tips , financial advise or recommendations of any kind to either buy or sell any stocks.

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