LanzaTech’s Renewable Jet Fuel Technology Is Ready to Take Off

By Mariliana Fotopoulou Friday, June 19, 2020

Sustainable aviation fuel is about to become available to the commercial market through the technologies developed by LanzaTech over the last 15 years. The technology that creates ethanol from carbon emissions from various sources, including power plants, can be used as fuel and for chemical manufacturing.

The leading biotech company and carbon recycler recently announced the launch of LanzaTech Inc. Together with their corporate partners, Mitsui, Suncor, and All Nippon Airways (ANA), they will be introducing sustainable aviation fuel, with production starting in early 2022.

The technology that LanzaJet will use to make sustainable fuels promises to curb climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This process is done through the generation of sustainable fuels and chemicals created from reformed biogas, agricultural, municipal, and organic industrial waste.

Japanese trading and investment company, Mitsui & Co. and Suncor Energy, the Canadian gas and oil producer, are initially putting up $25 million, out of a total $85 million investment. The initial funding is for the construction of a demonstration plant that will have the ability to produce 10 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel and renewable diesel annually.

LanzaJet is now in the process of identifying its feedstock suppliers. According to Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech, this is being done in close cooperation with the relevant renewal energy standards organization, because the supply of second-generation cellulosic ethanol needs to meet the right carbon footprint standards. LanzaTech could also be a supplier of some of this feedstock.

Other Collaborations

In its 15-year history, Chicago-based LanzaTech has worked alongside government research agencies. Initially, the U.S. Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) developed a catalytic process to upgrade ethanol to ATJ-SPK (alcohol-to-jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene). LanzaTech then attempted to pilot-scale the initial findings of PNNL.

The technology of converting emissions into ethanol includes the use of microbes. The emissions captured from the various processes are injected in vats filled with the microbes, which in turn convert the gases into ethanol.

LanzaJet received a grant of $14 million from the Department of Energy. The grant is to help it develop a biorefinery at the company’s site Soperton, Georgia, and also to continue the development of the manufacturing process of cellulosic ethanol.

This public-private partnership has ensured that the processes developed by LanzaTech can be rolled out into its new startup.

Vested Interests

The aviation industry has committed to achieve carbon-neutral growth by then end of 2020 and to reduce the emission levels of 2005 to half by 2050.

Therefore, for one of the private partners of LanzaJet, ANA, the development of renewable jet fuel technology is beneficial. ANA is taking a giant leap toward meeting these goals set by the International Air Transport Association.

Canadian oil and gas company, Suncor, also moves a step closer to diversifying from traditional oil and gas. This move is following the commitments made at the Paris Accord’s two-degree Celsius goal. Suncor will now be able to add sustainable jet fuels to its airport services in Canada. They have also been busy adding electric charging stations at their network of Petro-Canada gas filling stations across Canada.

LanzaJet Is Ready for Take-Off

The appointed head of LanzaJet is Jimmy Samartzis, who previously met Holmgren when they worked at Universal Oil Products. Samartzis has both aviation and technology experience and is a prior executive at United Airlines. Currently, he is a board member at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Even while he was at United, Samartzis was already interested in sustainable aviation fuel. He was invited by Holmgren to collaborate with the marketing of the new sustainable jet fuel to companies almost a decade ago.

This is a historic milestone for LanzaJet and the aviation industry. It proves that private and public collaborations have the potential to make a difference to many industries as they help to shape a future with fewer greenhouse emissions.

Companies cannot achieve global climate goals without transformative technologies. Their ability to accomplish this at the rate required will depend on how they can be financed. The scaling necessary to take these technologies from the lab to commercial use requires collaboration and financing from many sources.

LanzaJet proves that the more the vested interests are, the easier it is to secure funding.

About the Author

Mariliana Fotopoulou

Mariliana has an MSC in consumer analytics and business strategy. She has a special interest in fast-moving industries and big data.

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