First in technology, first in commercialization, first in the hearts of the bioeconomy: a Presidents’ Day Look at LanzaTech

February 20, 2023 |

It’s been so many years since Amyris last knocked LanzaTech off its accustomed perch atop the 50 Hottest Companies in the Bioeconomy rankings. I’ve begun to think that LanzaTech ought to follow in the wake of its technology partner Twelve and simply rename themselves Number One, like a character out of a James Bond novel.

It would be fitting. LanzaTech has been first in technology, first in commercialization, first in the hearts of the bioeconomy.

The timelines of the company’s development may have been pushed back here and there by pandemic, but the patience of LanzaTech’s worldwide cadre of fans was rewarded when news arrived from the Financial Temples of New York City that AMCI Acquisition Corp. II and LanzaTech announced that AMCI’s stockholders have approved their business combination, and that the company has entered into a $100 million forward purchase agreement with ACM ARRT H LLC to enhance financial flexibility. 

AMCI and LanzaTech also announced that they have received additional PIPE investments from existing and new PIPE investors. The total additional PIPE investment is $5 million, increasing the previously announced common equity PIPE to $185 million.

The feint beyond ethanol

In recent years, most of the company’s messaging has been about the need to conserve carbon as a precious resource. Carbon’s been put up there with gold, palladium and the Mona Lisa — to be revered, and conserved. We’ve also heard much about the impressive achievements of the LT bug in producing this material for lululemon or that material for someone else. It’s all been very diverting, and they racked up so many bonus points in the game of “They Said It Couldn’t Be Done” that LanzaTech might as well be a meme somewhere inside of Ready Player One. Another good future name for the company — Player One.

But make no mistake, no matter how interesting the chatter on carbon and chemicals,  for some time to come the workhorse molecule of Planet LanzaTech will be ethanol. Which is actually a good thing.

Some molecules are described as the Swiss Army Knife of refining. Ethanol is a caravelle; that remarkable ship that allowed Europeans to discover the New World.

A Master Maker of Molecules

In the economy writ large, LanzaTech, no matter what it makes, has become our most distinguished maker of molecules. Elsewhere in the pivot to renewables, there are companies focused on particles, primarily the electron; even companies focused on the atom, such as nuclear techs. And that is the reason why we hear so much about chemicals and materials. Molecules may not be the future of mobility, depends on who you chat with; however, they are the past, present and future of stuff. There are no solar yoga pants, there are no seat cushions made out of wind. Electrons carry energy but they do not carry civilization, molecules are what we are, even if they will not always be the ones to offer us a ride.

So, for LanzaTech, or Number One, or Player One, what have you — in the long run, the future may lie in materials; the present for the company is in lockstep with mobility, still. With good reason: if you were to draw a greenhouse gas emission chart with “hard to abate” on the one axis and volume of emissions on the other, you’d find mobility, especially heavy duty, in the toughest quadrant, the roughest country, the highest seas. 

Horizontal transport is getting easier all the time, but lift remains the withering, trackless Sahara of decarbonization; for reasons of cost and scale we continue to drill, extract, combust and emit a giant volume of carbon dioxide from fossil sources, and LanzaTech remains one of the very best ways to attack the problem.

No land, no worries

You will find biotechnology deeply embedded in the company, but not in its feedstock — it doesn’t use plants, it doesn’t take up land. They find and use scrap carbon. They are scavengers of the first rank. You’d think that was a virtue, since there is so much pushback from environmentalists on land use. But actually, critics chirp and carp, and I find myself longing for the days of the ducking stool and the stocks to put those critics in. The critique goes that using fossil carbon for good purposes empowers companies to generate fossil carbon for bad ones. I’ve never bought into that way of thinking. 

Fossil companies are driven to use fossil carbon by the absence of any prohibition against it, and by the iron law of the marketplace that the lowest cost ingredients that are legal to make are the ones that get the orders. As long as the sky is a free sewer for polluters, polluters gonna pollute, cheap goods made by polluters allowed to pollute, those are gonna rule. But times are changing. In many ways, this is the LanzaTech hour.

It’s certainly been a LanzaTech year, they’ve done more swinging their partners than expert square dancers. A partnership with Indian Oil for SAF, where we spotted LanzaJet in the front seat but LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren applauding happily from the sidelines. A $31M grant from the UK for the DRAGON project. An isoprene partnership with Sumitomo. A next-gen reactor in place in Edmonton. A massive Carbon Capture project with Brookfield Renewables. Ethylene from CO2, down in the New Zealand labs, something to inspire your inner Haka. New centers of excellence with a Who’s Who of partners. A tie-up with Givaudan, The news flow goes on and on and on.

The Bottom Line

What will become of all these partnerships and ventures? Some will flourish, many fail; it is the nature of innovation to strive into the Land of Not Knowing Exactly What Will Work and What Won’t. So, for now, we’ll have to wait and see.

While waiting, let’s celebrate good news. LanzaTech has crossed the Delaware, through the sluggish ice, they’re rounding up Hessians, they’re making the bio-revolution safe. Another river lies ahead, the almost infinite liquidity of the New York financial market, we spy them on the NASDAQ screens, and we see good days ahead in the clean economy.

On to Yorktown.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“We are pleased to complete this transaction and solidify our partnership with LanzaTech. We appreciate the support of our stockholders at today’s vote,” said Nimesh Patel, Chief Executive Officer of AMCI Acquisition Corp. II. “We are proud to continue this journey with LanzaTech and are excited about what they will be able to accomplish on their mission of enabling a lower-carbon world.”

“We are excited to reach this critical milestone in our corporate journey, made possible by the immeasurable and enduring support from our many partners across the globe,” said Dr. Jennifer Holmgren, Chief Executive Officer of LanzaTech. “Once completed, our business combination with AMCI will mark a transformative step in LanzaTech’s quest towards enabling a cleaner world. Our upsized PIPE illustrates the valuable support we continue to receive from new and existing strategic investors. We are confident that with our new public platform and financial resources, we will be able to accelerate and amplify our mission of creating a post pollution future for all.”

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