LanzaTech, a startup company providing greener solutions through biochemical engineering and is valued to almost one billion dollars, is now looking to expand its services.
LanzaTech successfully secured $72 million in funding at a nearly $1 billion valuation.
With the additional funding, the startup confirmed to venture off from their ethanol production into providing other environmentally-safe products.
LanzaTech has established itself as a company devoted to providing greener solutions and products to consumers but from the vantage point that it recycles resources to do so.
In particular, the startup makes use of the greenhouse gas emissions produced from factories and other industrial-scale businesses to produce ethanol—a biofuel commonly used as an additive to gasoline or can also be used purely as fuel.
Arguably, ethanol has lower greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline, and so using it in cars decreases overall carbon emissions.
Almost every gallon of gasoline sold in the United States today is 10 percent ethanol, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. In perspective, the world uses about 50 million barrels of fossil fuel in a day.
The problem, however, is that ethanol is traditionally a type of fuel produced from food such as corn, sugar, or grasses. People have debated that ethanol is not a viable substitute for conventional gasoline since producing crops to make ethanol consume land spaces and resources away from people.
LanzaTech, whose name can be translated into “spearheading new technology,” developed a way to produce ethanol without the use of any food sources.
Specifically, the company sought out waste gases and solid waste sources instead. Notably, these were previously considered to be un-recyclable.
Through genetically engineered microbes, LanzaTech discovered that they could produce ethanol from a fermentation process with bacteria that are trained to consume waste streams.
In general, the Chicago-based company makes use of the carbon waste emissions secreted by factories by striking deals with them.
LanzaTech provides the technology that helps these factories produce their own ethanol, which they can sell. In turn, they receive payment from setting it up and from royalties of sold ethanol.
One of the largest factories that LanzaTech is providing its technology is the waste emissions from the Shougang Group’s Jingtang Steel Mill outside Beijing in Caofeidian, China, and is being called the Shougang-LanzaTech Joint Venture.
The facility is touted to produce at least 16 million gallons of ethanol a year, or the equivalent of 70,000 vehicles off the streets.
Although the numbers are big, it is still relatively small compared to how much the planet needs. The United States alone used 14.4 billion gallons of ethanol in 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.
Despite already producing large quantities of ethanol for automotive fuel purposes, LanzaTech is making moves in expanding its green solutions towards other products.
The company has inked deals with airlines like Virgin Atlantic, the airline arm of the Virgin empire founded by billionaire serial entrepreneur Richard Branson, and ANA in Japan to make an ethanol-based jet fuel for commercial flight.
The development of airplane-grade ethanol fuel has been in development since 2011.
Recently, the startup has also inked a partnership with biotechnology giant, Novo Holdings, that will allow it to develop its ethanol products to other ventures such as plastic products.
“We are learning how to modify our organisms so they can make things other than ethanol directly,” said LanzaTech chief executive officer, Jennifer Holmgren.
LanzaTech researchers discovered that ethanol could be processed to become polyethylene that can be used to make bio-plastics or bio-based nylon fabrics.
“We are making a product to sell into that [chemicals market] right now. We are taking ethanol and making products out of it. Taking ethylene and we will make polyethylene, and we will make PET substitute for fiber,” Holmgren said, adding that it will achieve the plan through technology provided by Novo Holdings.
“LanzaTech is addressing our collective need for sustainable fuels and materials, enabling industrial players to be part of building a truly circular economy,” said Anders Bendsen Spohr, Senior Director at Novo Holdings, in a statement.
“Novo Holdings’ investment underlines our commitment to supporting the bio-industrials sector and, in particular, companies that are developing cutting-edge technology platforms. We are excited to work with the LanzaTech team and look forward to supporting the company in its next phase of growth,” the company said.