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DOE Awards LanzaTech $4M for New Low-Carbon Jet & Diesel Demo Facility

Image credit: LanzaTech

The Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has awarded 2015 SBIO winner LanzaTech, a carbon-recycling company, $4 million to design and plan a demonstration-scale facility using industrial off gases to produce 3 million gallons a year of low-carbon jet and diesel fuels.

The new facility will recycle industrial waste gases from steel manufacturing to produce a low-cost ethanol intermediate called “Lanzanol.” Both Lanzanol and cellulosic ethanol will then be converted to jet fuel via the “Alcohol to Jet” (ATJ) process developed by LanzaTech and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

The ATJ technology was initially developed by PNNL with DOE funding and subsequently scaled up by LanzaTech to produce 4,000 gallons of sustainable jet fuel from Lanzanol and other sources, as well as 600 gallons of diesel fuel, for fuel quality testing, certification and a test flight with Virgin Atlantic.

“The ability to produce tightly specified aviation fuel or, alternatively, high-cetane diesel is a unique feature of this technology that will enhance its competitiveness in U.S. as well as global markets,” said Suresh Baskaran, chief science and technology officer for the Energy and Environment Directorate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

LanzaTech was one of six companies selected to receive up to $12.9 million in federal funding as a part of the DOE’s “Project Definition for Pilot- and Demonstration-Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biopower,” an initiative designed to spur the development and execution of plans for the manufacturing of advanced or cellulosic biofuels, bioproducts, refinery-compatible intermediates, and/or biopower in a domestic pilot-or demonstration-scale integrated biorefinery.

Each of the six selected projects — which include an algae biofuel facility and an integrated biorefinery that utilizes wastewater treatment plant sludge — will be evaluated in two phases. Award recipients will design and plan their facilities in Phase 1, and in order to continue to Phase 2, projects will be evaluated on Phase 1 progress, as well as the ability to secure the required 50 percent cost share funding for Phase 2. The DOE anticipates Phase 2 awards to be in 2018 to construct and operate the pilot- or demonstration-scale facility. Projects could receive additional federal funds of up to $15 million for pilot-scale facilities or $45 million for demonstration-scale facilities.

LanzaTech is building its first commercial waste-gases-to-ethanol facilities, including one in China with Shougang — the country’s largest steel company — and one in Belgium in partnership with ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel manufacturer.

In the DOE-funded project, LanzaTech will work with ArcelorMittal to evaluate US opportunities for leveraging this expertise to demonstrate an entirely new pathway to low-carbon fuels from industrial wastes that are either flared or underutilized.

“Economics and sustainability are key to realizing the potential of alternative aviation fuels,” said LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren. “Jet fuel accounts for as much as 40 percent of an airline’s operating costs and the sector has made substantial commitments to reduce their CO2 emissions by 2025. So fuels must address both of these needs to succeed at commercial scale. Thanks to the Department of Energy, the partners in this project will accelerate the commercial production of low-cost, low-carbon jet, gasoline and diesel in the United States.”

To demonstrate process versatility, ethanol from other waste gas streams will be converted, including cellulosic ethanol produced via fermentation of biomass syngas by Aemetis. Ambitech, an Illinois-based engineering company, will be LanzaTech’s engineering partner with additional engineering contributions from Aemetis. Other project partners include PNNL; technology providers Petron Scientech, CRI Catalyst Company, Nexceris and Gardner Denver Nash; Michigan Technological University, which will be evaluating the environmental footprint of the fuels being produced; and Audi, which will support by evaluating diesel and gasoline fuel properties.

The project has also received support from Airlines for America (A4A) and the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), an aviation industry consortium focused on the near-term development and commercialization of sustainable alternative jet fuels.

Libby MacCarthy is an Editorial Assistant at Sustainable Brands, based in Maine and France. She is a former urban planner specializing in sustainable cities, and an urban farming and film photography enthusiast. She holds a BA in Environment, Society and… [Read more about Libby MacCarthy]