World’s First Commercial Waste Gas to Ethanol Plant Now in Operation

June 10, 2018 |

The Digest’s #1 Hottest Company, LanzaTech, is at it again with firsts! It’s making dreams become reality! Instead of sugarplums dancing in our heads, we have visions of a carbon smart future in our lifetime. It’s so exciting that maybe we’ll see them show up on the “7 wonders of the world” list that catalogues the world’s most spectacular natural wonders and manmade structures. We can see it now…LanzaTech’s carbon capturing technology on a steel production facility as the 8th wonder of the world.

In Illinois, carbon recycling company, LanzaTech, and its joint venture partner, Shougang Group, a leading Chinese iron and steel producer, announced the successful start-up of the world’s first commercial facility converting industrial emissions to sustainable ethanol. The facility, located at the Jingtang Steel Mill in Caofeidian in Hebei Province, began operations on May 3.

LanzaTech uses anaerobic bacteria (originally found in rabbit droppings) to ferment waste emissions from industry to make fuel ethanol. This ethanol’s performance in fuel blending applications is indistinguishable from sugar-derived ethanol as it meets all specifications of ASTM International D4806, the active standard for qualifying ethanol used in blending with gasoline for automotive engines. In addition, the ethanol meets the National Standard of the People’s Republic of China GB 18350 for Denatured fuel ethanol.

With a capacity of 46,000 tons (16 million gallons) of ethanol per year, this facility will reduce carbon dioxide, particulates and other pollutants in line with China’s climate and energy goals. Ethanol can be used as a low carbon fuel and can be converted downstream to jet fuel, diesel and household products.

The background

In case you have been living on a deserted island, LanzaTech developed a fully sustainable integrative gas to fuels and chemicals platform that has no impact on food, water security or high biodiversity land use.

LanzaTech’s gas fermentation platform disrupts the current highly centralized global energy system by enabling the regional production of low-cost energy from local wastes and residues, including gases as varied as industrial flue gas, gasified biomass wastes and residues, biogas, and high-CO2 stranded natural gas. The company was originally founded in 2005 in New Zealand. The proprietary gas-to-liquid platform produces fuels and high value chemicals such as 2,3-butanediol (2,3 BDO) and acetic acid from a variety of waste gas resources.

Check out the Digest’s Multi-Slide Guide to Lanzatech.

Inspiring Others

This isn’t the first time LanzaTech comes at the world with a first – as reported in the Digest in July 2017, they unveiled a Statement of Intent to construct the world’s first refinery off gas-to-bioethanol production facility in India with India’s flagship national oil company Indian Oil Corporation. The basic engineering for the 40 million liter per year demonstration plant will began Q4 2017 for installation at Indian Oil’s Panipat Refinery in Haryana, India. It is being integrated into existing site infrastructure and is LanzaTech’s first project capturing refinery off-gases. In fact, things are going so well there that as reported in the Digest in March 2018, Indian Oil is buying a 4% stake in LanzaTech for $20 million, in a transaction that values the #1 ranked company in the Hot 50 at $500 million.

World firsts are pretty darn inspirational but so is LanzaTech’s leadership. LanzaTech CEO, Jennifer Holmgren received the Global Bioenergy Leadership Award, the first non-Government Official to win the award. The award, given in recognition of her leadership over more than 20 years in the field of alternative fuels, was engraved with a greyhound, symbolic of how her work rescuing greyhounds from race tracks echoes that of her work at LanzaTech, rescuing single use carbon!

“With all the technologies in play today, it is truly an honor to be recognized by the Digest subscribers and the international panelists for our contributions to the advanced bioeconomy, especially in the year that we will operate our first commercial facility!” said Holmgren. “Creating a Carbon Smart future is no longer considered a fantasy and it is thanks to the efforts of the entire LanzaTech team and our global friends and partners that no carbon will be left behind. We are turning our carbon challenge into an opportunity!”

Making it happen

What may have seemed as a pie in the sky idea many years ago of carbon capturing, LanzaTech is making it a reality in more ways than one. They aren’t just taking carbon from a steel and iron producer in China and turning it into something valuable while reducing carbon pollutants from the air – they are also taking municipal solid waste and converting it into ethanol as well.

As reported in the Digest in December 2017, in Japan, Sekisui Chemical and LanzaTech, successfully demonstrated the production of ethanol from unsorted municipal solid waste — which can be used directly as a fuel or as a precursor to butadiene (a key raw material in the production of synthetic fibers and rubber), isopropanol, and isoprene — which themselves are used to make anything from tires to sneakers, cell phone covers to yoga pants.

In 2013, Sekisui launched a project with LanzaTech to find an economically viable way to recycle the carbon in garbage into useful products, such as plastics and rubber. With a pilot scale facility outside of Tokyo, Sekisui has succeeded in demonstrating stable plant operation and high ethanol yields.

Here’s an illuminating overview from the partners on the technology, the partners, the project, the promise, the progress.

Also check out the Diget’s top story from December 2017 about the project, “Shazzan!: Turning Urban Trash into Treasure Island, the LanzaTech, Sekisui Chemicals story.”

The Bottom Line

When we think LanzaTech can’t get any better, we get news like this about the successful start-up of the world’s first commercial facility converting industrial emissions to sustainable ethanol. When we think they can’t inspire us any more, they take our breath away.

We have a feeling this is just the beginning for LanzaTech and for carbon capturing projects around the world and wouldn’t be surprised to someday see it on the top “wonders of the world” lists. Hold on because this ride is far from over and it’s going to get even better.

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