Only three months after LanzaTech announced a spin-out aimed at selling fuel for sustainable aviation, the company is already preparing for two more.
LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren said Tuesday on the virtual stage of Disrupt 2020 that the carbon capture technology company plans to use its core technology to create two more companies.
LanzaTech captures waste gas emissions and uses the bacteria to transform it into usable ethanol fuel. A bioreactor is used to convert captured liquids and compress waste emissions from a steelworks or a factory or any other emissions producer.
LanzaTech’s core technology – and its future activities – is a battery that likes to eat up these dirty gas streams. As the bacteria eat the emissions, they essentially ferment them – a bit like brewing, Holmgren explains recently – and emit ethanol. Ethanol can be transformed into many products.
“Using a technology like ours that can use so many raw materials – waste biomass, industrial gases, CO2 from the air – will make as much ethanol, which I think of ethanol as the raw material of the future. In other words, you have to use ethanol to make other products. ”
In June, LanzaTech did this and announced a spin-off called LanzaJet. The new company was launched with commitments from the Japanese trading and investment company Mitsui & Co. and Canadian oil and gas producer Suncor Energy, which will invest $ 85 million to finance pilot and scale-up development structures for LanzaJet.
It now appears that LanzaTech plans to pursue other parts of the supply chain. Holmgren said the company is focused on a couple of use cases on the chemical side. Ethanol, for example, can be converted to ethylene, which is used to make polyethylene for bottles and PEP for the fibers used to make clothes.
“We’ve seen a road from ethanol to products that use today’s supply chain,” Holmgren said.
More importantly, LanzaTech has focused on synthetic biology. The company has learned how to modify the bacteria it already uses to make ethanol, and instead exploits it to directly make other chemicals.
“So you can imagine one day, we’re not just going to make fuel for an airplane, we’re going to make seat belts and upholstery – all of these things through synthetic biology,” he said, adding that this will probably become a spin-off.
The second spin-off company focuses on a by-product that it already makes. Bacteria that eat carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide are a “lean battery” as Holmgren calls it, because it’s mostly protein. LanzaTech already sells this lean battery as a co-product of its technology.
“Not in the too distant future, we want to run a reactor with all these gases, not to make ethanol, but to make protein, and I also see it as a last spin-out,” he said.
Holmgren did not provide a specific chronology of these spin-outs. Although he added that the company is implementing a plan now and will start making some moves in the next three months. There is capital that will be needed to operate these companies. The spin-off of synthetic biology, which Holmgren said is further afield, will need a couple hundred million dollars ahead.
Holmgren also announced Tuesday during Disrupt 2020 a news release small-scale waste biomass gasifier in India. The new gasifier will be housed in Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemical, one of the largest refineries in India. The LanzaTech gasifier, which will be built in collaboration with Indian project development company Ankur Scientific, will use the waste to manufacture ethanol and chemicals rather than power.