BASF invests in LanzaTech, ArcelorMittal’s underway on advanced fuels, Syngenta breaks 3B gallon mark, Leaf gets an accelerator: partnership frenzy in the bioeconomy

June 13, 2018 |

News that ArcelorMittal and LanzaTech broke ground on their €150 million waste-to-energy project in Belgium this week and that BASF has invested in the company adds to the LanzaTech-dominated week in Digestville.

But it shows also what smaller companies can do when they partner effectively – whether that means industrial giants like ArcelorMittal or BASF, technology accelerator schemes like Unreasonable Impact, or with the US ethanol industry.

And BASF, Lallemand, Leaf Resources and Syngenta’s Enogen corn are in the news this week in that way as well. It’s a showcase day for accelerating company fortunes through partnership.

Arcelor, LanzaTech break ground

First, to LanzaTech’s massive project. ArcelorMittal has begun construction of new premises at its site in Ghent, Belgium, to house a pioneering new installation which will convert carbon-containing gas from its blast furnaces into bioethanol. If proved successful, the new concept has the potential to revolutionize blast furnace carbon emissions capture and support the decarbonization of the transport sector. 

This is the first installation of its kind on an industrial scale in Europe and once complete, annual production of bioethanol at Ghent is expected to reach around 80 million liters, which will yield an annual CO2 saving equivalent to putting 100,000 electrical cars on the road. The new installation will create up to 500 construction jobs over the next two years and 20 to 30 new permanent direct jobs. Commissioning and first production is expected by mid-2020.  Funding was obtained from various sources, including the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, to carry out further research and development and scale up the project 

The application of this microbial gas conversion system significantly advances ArcelorMittal’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture and utilization (CCU) capabilities and enhances steel’s role in the circular economy. ArcelorMittal’s long-term aspiration is to become a zero-waste business, with all materials used or generated during steel production recuperated, treated and reused in the production chain or becoming the raw materials for other industries. 

Reaction from AM and L-T

“We are excited that after several years of research and engineering, we are now progressing with the largest project of its kind within the ArcelorMittal group. This is the first application of a viable new business case where re-use of carbon is possible at large scale. We will achieve significant carbon reduction and we hope that this will lead us to a lower carbon economy,” says Carl De Maré, vice president of Technology Strategy at ArcelorMittal. “This new Carbon Smart technology illustrates ArcelorMittal’s commitment to transforming steel production and it will also further strengthen steel’s standing in the circular economy, particularly compared to other higher carbon metals like aluminium.” 

“Single use carbon must become a thing of the past,” said Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech. “In order to succeed in decarbonizing our economy, we will need the commitment of large companies and governments from around the world to ensure carbon reuse is part of the solution. This facility in Europe embodies the key principles of the circular economy and drives to a zero-waste steel production world. We are excited to work with ArcelorMittal and are grateful for the support of the European Commission.” 

BASF invests in LanzaTech 

In Germany, BASF Venture Capital is investing in LanzaTech, the Digest has learned.  BASF Venture Capital GmbH (BVC) was founded in 2001 and has offices in Europe, the U.S., China and Israel. The aim of BVC is to generate new growth potential for BASF by investing in new companies and funds. The focus of investment is on chemical products and new materials, software and services as well as innovative and digital business models in the broader field of chemistry. Terms were not disclosed by the partners.

LanzaTech’s technology is now being deployed at commercial scale in the steel industry where carbon monoxide from residual gases (off-gases) can be converted into ethanol. Ethanol can be used as the raw material for the production of diesel, gasoline or jet fuel and as a precursor to plastics and polymers. The company’s product portfolio includes additional biochemicals besides ethanol, such as chemical specialties and intermediates, that can be used as raw materials in other chemical production processes. The technology is also potentially suitable for treating and recycling waste streams in the chemical industry and for municipal waste disposal. 

Reaction from BASF, L-T

“LanzaTech offers a promising technology that allows currently unused industrial residue and waste streams to be recycled,” says Markus Solibieda, Managing Director of BASF Venture Capital. “We support our customers and society with chemistry that makes optimum use of available resources, and we are working to integrate sustainability increasingly in all our business processes. One part of this is investment in technologies that help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.” 

“Investment from BASF will help us realize our goal of a Carbon Smart Future,” says Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech. “BASF’s expertise in creating sustainable chemistry that benefits society aligns with our carbon recycling vision, where we capture and reuse waste carbon to make useful everyday items, displacing fossil feedstocks and keeping the sky blue for all.” 

Leaf Selected for Accelerator Programme ‘Unreasonable Impact’ 

Meanwhile, Leaf Resources has been selected by Unreasonable Impact, a global partnership between Barclays and Unreasonable Group focused on scaling up ventures that have the potential to solve major environmental and societal problems while creating the jobs of tomorrow. Leaf is the only Australian company – as well as the only bioeconomy company – chosen for the current programme, focused on the Asia-Pacific region.  

Unreasonable Impact has forged partnerships with some of the world’s largest institutions and brands, and its programmes are focused on solving the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Leaf Resources was chosen thanks to its innovative Glycell process and biodegradable recyclable packaging product LeafCOAT. When implemented, these processes and products can significantly contribute to several of the  Leaf is well-positioned to support United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. such as SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) and SDG 13 (climate action).

Unreasonable Impact aims to rapidly scale up entrepreneurial companies which address key environmental issues while possessing highly profitable business models and an ability to create thousands of new jobs. The initiative is a first-of-its-kind, international accelerator network and the programme is launching in the UK, the USA and Asia. The second Asia-Pacific programme will run this June as an intensive ten-day accelerator designed to support growth stage ventures across China, Hong Kong, India, Japan and Singapore. Unreasonable Impact will assist selected ventures with valuable resources, mentorship, funding opportunities and a global support network. 

Reaction from LR

“The selection of Leaf Resources for the Unreasonable Impact accelerator programme is further evidence of our growing environmental and business credentials. As our Malaysian project moves closer to being implemented, the credibility of Leaf as a major international force for environmental good, with the appropriate commercial upside, is growing. It is further testament to the hard work done by the Leaf team and an unwavering commitment to making it happen.”

BASF and Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits ink enzymes, yeast partnership 

In California and Georgia, BASF Enzymes and Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits signed a marketing and sales collaboration agreement aimed at the US ethanol market.  BASF will use its enzyme portfolio for applications in liquefaction and fermentation in order to maximize fermentation performance. LBDS will use its TransFerm yeast product line that provides increased ethanol yields and reduces the need for glucoamylase addition. 

Reaction from BASF, LBDS

“Collaborating with LBDS is a key milestone in our efforts to better serve our customers with increased-value to their bottom line,” said Dirk Daems, Director of Operations, BASF. “LBDS’s leading yeast technology and expertise in fermentation is the perfect complement to our high-performance enzyme portfolio and technical support in the field.” 

“Being able to bring to market the best liquefaction enzymes in the world, coupled with our TransFerm yeast products, will generate even more value for our customers through increased efficiencies,” said Angus Ballard, President of LBDS. “We are very excited to be teaming up with BASF and their innovative enzyme technology, to make this vision a reality.” 

Syngenta hits 3 billion gallon, 30 plant mark for Enogen corn

In Minnesota, Syngenta now has agreements in place with more than 30 ethanol plants with a combined production capacity of approximately 3 billion gallons. As new plants come on board, Syngenta expects ethanol produced with Enogen corn enzyme technology to be approximately 2.5 billion gallons during 2018 alone.

Farmers who grow Enogen corn are eligible to earn an additional premium per Enogen bushel. During 2018, Enogen corn is expected to generate approximately $28.5 million of additional revenue for local growers contracting with plants using Enogen grain through per-bushel premiums. Numerous trials have shown that Enogen hybrids perform equal to or better than other high-performing corn hybrids.2

The robust alpha amylase enzyme in Enogen grain significantly reduces the viscosity of corn mash and eliminates the need to add a liquid form of the enzyme. This breakthrough reduction can lead to unprecedented levels of solids loading, which directly contributes to increased throughput and yield potential, as well as critical cost savings from reduced natural gas, electricity and water usage. Enogen corn also enables ethanol plants to gain corn market knowledge from mid-year corn estimates.

Reaction from Syngenta

“Enogen corn is adding value for ethanol plants, corn growers and rural communities,” said Jeff Oestmann, head, Bio-fuels Operations – Enogen at Syngenta. “Across a growing number of ethanol plants, Enogen corn is helping to fuel enzyme innovation. Syngenta is committed to the success of the U.S. ethanol industry and to helping ethanol plants adopt the best enzyme strategy.”

The Bottom Line

We’ve said for some time that networking like crazy is the key to the advanced bioeconomy. The world is attempting the most ambitious change in its energy and industrial system in history — far exceeding the Industrial Revolution in speed and scope — and no one can do it alone. Robust technologies must find effective routes to market through robust partnership — the days of vertically-integrated companies that can “do it all” appear to be over or at least sharply numbered. LanzaTech. ArcelorMittal, Leaf, Syngenta, BASF, LDBS and Unreasonable Impact are showing us the way this week. 

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