Chicago-based, LanzaTech, has been recycling carbon emissions into products such as clothes, aviation fuel, fragrances, and perfumes.
Their patented CarbonSmart technology has shown how its carbon capture and conversion technology can do away with virgin fossil fuels to make things people use in their daily lives.
The major products made by LanzaTech out of its carbon recycling technology include the following:
- Chemicals (100+)
- Fuels (SAF)
For every ton of CarbonSmart product made 2 tons of CO2 is removed.
Their scalable tech has the potential to produce >1 billion tons/year of CarbonSmart products from waste feedstock.
The company does that with its unique carbon conversion process below.
LanzaTech’s fermentation process uses rabbit-gut bacteria to ferment gas pollution (contains CO2) captured from factories and municipal solid waste.
The bacteria then transforms those wastes to make its proprietary blend of ethanol it calls Lanzanol.
Ethanol is a basic building block of many materials and it’s an alcohol that is blended with gasoline to lessen the fuel used by cars.
Converting the gas streams from various carbon sources into a workable material is similar to a traditional fermentation process.
But unlike making beer where sugar is fed to the yeast to make ethanol, LanzaTech doesn’t use sugar. Instead, it feeds the organisms inside the reactor either CO or CO2.
Then the converted gas is safely stored, waiting to be used as raw material for making a new product.
LanzaTech’s CEO, Jennifer Holmgren said that steel mills usually flare carbon monoxide (CO) and CO2 into the atmosphere. She then added that:
“LanzaTech runs a plant at a steel-mill site, to easily grab the carbon monoxide emissions and put them into a reactor, a process called gas fermentation. Then, a unique strain of bacteria inside the reactor devours the emissions and “poops out ethanol, basically.”
LanzaTech’s ethanol is the same as fossil-fuel derived ethanol chemically speaking. It is then sent to companies that source it in making other chemicals used in polyester fabrics, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and other sustainable products.
Carbon Capture Innovation and Scalability
With this innovative carbon conversion technology, LanzaTech has produced over 30 million gallons of ethanol since 2021. This corresponds to avoiding 150,000 metric tons of CO2 out of the air.
The carbon tech further aims to generate 100 million gallons by the end of 2023. And while their operating plants use only CO as source emissions, LanzaTech plans to expand and use CO2 as well.
- In addition to its existing 2 commercial plants in operation, the firm has 7 more plants under construction. It is even planning to have 7 more engineering plants.
And to date, the company has over 1,115 patents granted worldwide with over 470 pending. It’s also working to make acetone and isopropanol, which should be ready in 2023.
LanzaTech also believes that it provides a profitable pathway to solving heavy industry’s carbon problems because of the following market advantages:
And a couple of LanzaTech’s partners are also thinking the same about the scalability of the company’s carbon technology.
The firm’s network of trusted partners and investors range from heavy industrial emitters to aviation companies and consumer brands.
There are several Global Fortune 500 companies that are deploying LanzaTech’s technology along with big investors in the space.
Total Energies converts the ethanol from LanzaTech into ethylene before polymerizing it into polyethylene that has the same technical characteristics as its fossil counterpart.
L’Oréal uses this polyethylene to make packaging for its products with the same quality and properties as conventional polyethylene.
Fashion Retailers Lululemon and Zara have partnered with them for sustainable clothing lines.
Steel company ArcelorMittal, Plastic firm Sekisui, Suncor Energy, and BASF are a few other companies investing to help scale up LanzaTech’s innovative process.
As seen below, LanzaTech’s SAF solution makes direct conversion of captured carbon to SAF possible.
With this technology, the carbon capture firm received $50 million in funding from Microsoft, adding to previous investments from Shell and many other energy companies and airlines.
In the words of the company’s CEO,
“Fossil fuel is in everything we use, not just fuel or energy… dresses [SAF and other sustainable products] will show people that to decarbonize, we have to change where carbon in everything comes from.”
LanzaJet and SAF
Apart from a long list of CarbonSmart products, they have spun out a company “LanzaJet” solely focused on producing sustainable jet fuel and additives for the aviation sector.
They already have partnerships in place with airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
In comparison with fossil fuel equivalent, LanzaJet offers the following performance when it comes to using CO2 waste and transforming it into SAF solution.