Gas Fermentation of Industrial Waste Gases to Fuel and Chemicals

Developed by: AIChE
  • Type:
    Conference Presentation
  • Skill Level:
    Intermediate
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The food versus fuel debate is becoming increasingly controversial in the wake of the industrialization of eastern countries and the ever-growing population of the world. Sustainable and renewable feed stocks are being explored as energy sources in order to meet the increasing energy demand and decreasing fossil energy reserves. Current technologies to produce fuel or chemicals are limited to the use of sugar or cellulose feedstocks; these technologies are food-based, expensive, and capital intensive. As countries across the world continue to limit the amount of fuel/chemicals that can be produced from food sources, alternative feedstocks will have to be explored.

The LanzaTech process uses renewable resources to capture industrial waste gases and transform them into energy rich fuels and chemicals. Industrial waste gases or low value byproducts containing CO and/or CO2 are fermented to chemicals/fuels such as ethanol, acetic acid, or 2,3-butanediol, among others. The LanzaTech technology can process a variety of industrial flue gases such as steel mill gas, coke oven gas, or syngas. These low value, non-food feedstocks are available at high volumes and can be utilized on-site, eliminating any feedstock handling or transportation costs. Initial estimates indicate that > 30 billion gallons per year of high value products can be produced from steel gases alone; this is a considerable contribution to the worldwide energy and chemical pool. The LanzaTech process offers superior carbon conversion, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas emission performance compared to conventional and emerging routes to the same products.

Since 2005 LanzaTech has developed its gas fermentation technology from lab-scale batch experiments to a continuous pilot plant which has been in operation since 2008. The technology is described including the scale-up from lab reactors to pilot scale to the first demonstration plant that is currently under construction. The first LanzaTech technology to be commercialized is gas fermentation of raw steel mill waste gases to produce ethanol. This is the first process going to scale to produce ethanol from a non-food alternative feedstock. Ongoing technology development efforts include improving the first generation technology, modifying the technology to enable economic conversion of other gas sources, and producing next generation products.


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