Imagine fuel converted from the emissions of a smoke stack, thanks to a bacteria originally discovered in the intestinal tracks of rabbits.
Thanks to a recently landed $55.8 million in Series C funding, LanzaTech may soon be delivering that fuel to a gas station near you.
The round was led by the Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund. New investors PETRONAS Technology Ventures Sdn Bhd and the Dialog Group participated alongside existing investors Khosla Ventures, Qiming Venture Partners K1W1, bringing the company’s total investment funding to $85 million.
The company produces ethanol and other chemical products using a proprietary microbe that has a WHO Category 1 safety rating (the same as Baker’s yeast). It currently has a pilot project at a steel mill in New Zealand creating 15,000 gallons of ethanol per year, and a facility in Shanghai that produces 100,000 gallons of fuel per year. If all goes well, the company hopes to be producing 30 to 35 million gallons of fuel by the end of 2013, and reach a billion gallon annual capacity by 2016.
The company produces the fuel from carbon monoxide taken from smoke stack flues. The process uses up 80 to 90 percent of the carbon dioxide, using water as the key element. The water is further recycled to minimize the water footprint. The process has the unique advantage of creating energy without competing for food, land or water.
“With a lot of feedstock, you run into the inability to get to billions of gallons, but the petroleum industry measures itself in billions of gallons per day,” said Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech. “Technologies like ours focused on waste resources that are widely abundant can have a real impact on the energy pool just because of the availability of that feedstock resource. This technology can have a broad impact.”
In addition to ethanol, the company also produces butanol and proponal, which can be used as high energy building blocks for transportation fuels. The company will use the new funding to bring its efforts to commercial scale.
“From the level of interests we’ve gotten, we’re looking at a pretty strong global footprint,” Holmgren said. “The key is getting past the demonstration phrase, and then we’ll see that hockey stick, as they say.”
The company is currently working with Biol Steel, the largest steel manufacturer in China; Capital Steel, the fourth largest steel producer in China; Gimbol Steel in India; India Oil, India’s largest oil company; and Petromus, a Malaysian oil company. It is working with Virgin Atlantic to produce aviation fuel.
Steel mills potentially have the capacity to produce 30 billion gallons of fuel per year, Holmgren said.
“The world’s going to double its energy consumption over the next 40 years,” Holmgren said. “Even if you don’t substitute for a drop of petroleum, at least you can make sure that that additional growth all comes from alternatives. We think we could be 20 to 30 percent of that pool.”