LanzaTech, a producer of low-carbon fuels and chemicals from waste gases today announced that it has been awarded a $4 million grant by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). LanzaTech and its partners, The City College of New York (CUNY), Louisiana State University (LSU) and Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech) will collaborate to extend LanzaTech’s core fermentation technology to unlock the potential of abundant, waste methane gases through innovative and smaller scale bioreactor design.
The grant is part of ARPA-E’s $34 million REMOTE (Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy) program, whose focus is on lowering the cost and required scale of transformational bioconversion technologies to produce transportation fuels that displace petroleum-based fuels.
LanzaTech uses a novel biological fermentation process to transform carbon rich wastes and residues from industrial sources into low carbon fuels and chemicals. Methane is an energy-rich gas with a greenhouse footprint 21 times as high as carbon dioxide (CO2) and one which is well suited for LanzaTech’s fermentation technology.
The focus for the grant is on reducing waste methane emissions from remote oil wells, coal seam and coalmine gases as well as landfill biogas often located in remote areas or released in relatively low volumes making them uneconomical to convert into other products. As such, many of these sources are simply flared, emitted or vented, resulting in significant greenhouse gas emissions.
The goal of the research is to increase the throughput, or intensity, of the LanzaTech bioreactor so that it can produce fuels and chemicals more efficiently, economically and at a smaller scale. Doing so will enable the reuse of waste methane gases for low carbon fuels and chemicals.
The new design will also allow the technnology to be applied to other carbon-rich waste resources containing carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2) further extending the ability to reduce and reuse emissions from a broader range of industries.
“LanzaTech is aiming to revolutionize the way the world sources and consumes energy. This grant is an exciting opportunity for LanzaTech and our partners to find new and sustainable uses for remote or otherwise uneconomical sources of waste methane, one of the most prolific of the greenhouse gases,” said Dr. Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech. “Extending our platform technology to other waste carbon sources extends the availability of low cost carbon to make the fuels and other products we rely on. Creating an efficient way to use these wastes will enable more people to have access to sustainable clean energy while reducing the need for new fossil energy sources.”
The project will combine LanzaTech’s expertise in gas fermentation and reactor design with experimental reactor design expertise at the CUNY Energy Institute, and reactor modelling capabilities at LSU. LanzaTech and Michigan Tech will validate the economic and life cycle analysis impacts of this innovative technology as compared to the current state of the art.
LanzaTech is the first company ever to scale gas fermentation technology to a pre-commercial level, developing and successfully operating two facilities that convert waste flue gas from Baosteel and Shougang steel plants into ethanol. Both facilities in China operated at annualized production capacity of 100,000 gallons. Site location and engineering plans for two full commercial facilities are under way and commercial production is expected to begin in 2014.
LanzaTech is a leader in gas fermentation technology. It provides novel and economic routes to fuels and high value chemicals from waste gas streams. LanzaTech’s unique process provides a sustainable pathway to produce platform chemicals that serve as building blocks to products that have become indispensable in our lives such as rubber, plastics, synthetic fibers and fuels.
LanzaTech’s technology solutions mitigate carbon emissions from industry without adversely impacting food or land security. With two commercial facilities in China slotted for operation in 2014, LanzaTech, a company founded in New Zealand, is now a global organization.
ARPA-E was officially authorized in 2007 and first funded in 2009. The Agency invests in high- potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. ARPA-E is changing what’s possible by thinking big, thinking bold, and thinking differently about energy innovation.
About CUNY Energy Institute
The CUNY Energy Institute at The City College of New York has world-leading facilities for research on transport processes in multiphase systems, including low-light particle imaging velocimetry (PIV), online analysis of sparingly soluble gases and X-ray tomography. The Institute has the infrastructure to handle large projects, successfully leading two from ARPA-E, and participating in several from DOE’s Nuclear Engineering University Programs. It is also a partner in DOE’s nuclear engineering hub (CASL) and responsible for benchmark multiphase flow experiments.
About Louisiana State University
The Cain Department of Chemical Engineering in LSU’s College of Engineering conducts research to develop efficient methods to convert biomass and other renewables into clean fuels, including both biochemical and thermochemical. For this project, LSU’s Chemical Engineering researchers will focus on optimizing the design of the bioreactor using Computational Fluid Dynamics models in conjunction with the experimental data on mass transfer.
About Michigan Technological University
Michigan Tech’s Sustainable Futures Institute (SFI) has significant experience conducting life cycle assessment studies. SFI professional staff has experience in performing life-cycle assessments of many products and processes, including bioenergy and biofuels projects utilizing numerous feedstocks.
Source: LanzaTech, press release, 2013-09-20.