Building Blocks: LanzaTech, IOC, NatureWorks, Calysta make strides on Omega-3s, lactic acid

November 3, 2014 |

In Illinois, LanzaTech and a research team from the IOC-DBT Center for Advanced Bio-Energy Research (an entity co-funded by India’s Department of Biotechnology and Indian Oil Corporation Limited) announced the development of a new process to recycle CO2 emissions into omega-3 rich fatty acids.

Recycling carbon dioxide (CO2) gases as the sole carbon source for continuous gas fermentation, LanzaTech’s microbes produce acetate that is then consumed as energy and carbon by a proprietary algae developed by the team at IOC-DBT. These algae are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and can be utilized as an omega-3 rich fish meal substitute, or the algal oil can be extracted and purified as an independent omega-3 lipid product.

Essential nutrients, omega-3 oils, cannot be synthesized by the human body, and instead must be consumed via the diet, most commonly from eating oily fish. Like humans, however, fish are unable to synthesize omega-3 fatty acids, and must source them through their diet as well. To keep up with global demand, fish farms (or aquaculture) use huge quantities of wild fish as feed, contributing to an overfishing crisis and threatening global food security.

“LanzaTech and the team from IOC-DBT have demonstrated the tremendous potential of carbon recycling,” LanzaTech CEO Dr. Jennifer Holmgren says. “A platform that can produce sustainable food and fuels economically and at scale turns the issue of food vs
fuels on its head. LanzaTech has long focused on increasing energy access and today we are a step closer to increasing access to affordable nutrition for all.”

Dr. D K Tuli, Executive Director and Centre Coordinator of IOC-DBT centre says “Both IOCDBT and LanzaTech have demonstrated the integration of IOC and LanzaTech process at bench scale at IOC-DBT Centre to produce omega-3 fatty acids (mainly DHA) and lipids.

Coproduction of lipids can make algal oil economically feasible. A continuous pilot plant facility shall be set up at IOC (R&D) next year which shall integrate both the processes resulting in creation of a disruptive technology. This project can be a game changer for production of omega-3 fatty acids and oil from algae in an economically viable method.”

The process closely parallels LanzaTech’s demonstrated waste gas to fuels technology, allowing LanzaTech to leverage its experience to rapidly commercialize the process. LanzaTech has successfully operated two 100,000 gallons per annum demonstration facilities in China that convert waste flue gas from Baosteel and Shougang steel plants into ethanol. LanzaTech is currently developing larger-scale commercial facilities with construction expected to begin later this year.

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NatureWorks and Calysta

Meanwhile in Minnesota, the US DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office announced a grant of up to $2.5 million to NatureWorks, one of the world’s leading suppliers of bioplastics, in support of an ongoing program that aims to sequester and use methane, a potent greenhouse gas, as a feedstock for the company’s Ingeo™ biopolymers and intermediates.

The grant supports an ongoing multi-year joint development program between NatureWorks and Calysta, with the specific goal of transforming, via a fermentation process, renewable biomethane into lactic acid, the building block for Ingeo. Ingeo naturally advanced bioplastics and intermediates are used worldwide in a host of consumer and industrial products.

The research and development (R&D) collaboration with Calysta addresses NatureWorks’ strategic interests in feedstock diversification and a structurally simplified, lower cost Ingeo production platform and leverages Calysta’s Biological Gas-to-Chemicals® platform for biological conversion of methane to high value chemicals.

For NatureWorks, methane could be an additional feedstock several generations removed from the simple plant sugars used today in a lactic acid fermentation process at the NatureWorks Blair, Nebraska, Ingeo production facility.

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