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NZ's Lanzatech Wins Asia Pacific Green Tech Award

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
NZ's Lanzatech Wins Asia Pacific Green Tech Award

NZ ethanol production technology LanzaTech developer has won one of Asia Pacific's most prestigious green technology awards.

LanzaTech, which has proven it can produce low cost ethanol from waste gases and biomass, has collected the "Green Technology Innovator of the Year" award at the annual Frost and Sullivan Asia Pacific Industrial Technologies Awards in Singapore.

LanzaTech cofounder Dr Sean Simpson found himself on the stage alongside heavyweights of Asia Pacific, like Hyundai Heavy Industries, NGK Insulators and APC by Schneider Electric, which were also category winners in the same "Energy and Power Systems" segment of the awards.

The Frost and Sullivan awards identify and credit best practices in industry segments and are awarded by the global consultancy. The awards are considered a measure not only of the current market, but also of emerging technology trends in chemicals, materials and foods, measurement and instrumentation, industrial process control, environment and building technologies and electronics and security as well as energy and power systems.

Dr Simpson says he was unaware of Frost and Sullivan's global reach, and how prestigious its awards are, when LanzTech first received notification "out of the blue" that it was a winner.

"It was fantastic to meet the senior directors and managers of worldwide companies that are so frequently on the world stage and to update them about LanzaTech's progress," Dr Simpson says.

Dr Simpson has also recently returned from a trip to China where LanzaTech's process for producing ethanol from the waste gases from steel mill flues is attracting strong attention. There is similar interest in the United States.

It comes on the back of LanzaTech proving it is able to commercialise its low-cost fermentation process in an industrial facility. It has been successfully operating a pilot plant at New Zealand Steel at Glenbrook, near Auckland, for more than 2500 hours and continuously for more than 500 hours.

Dr Simpson says the pilot plant has demonstrated the potential for processing the steel making converter-off gas stream into ethanol at commercial rates.

The potential for the LanzaTech process was identified in 2005 and the company subsequently secured Series A investment from a consortium that included Stephen Tindall's K1W1 investment fund and the internationally renowned leader in cleantech investments Khosla Ventures. The company has expanded the application of its process to include biomass-derived syngas.

LanzaTech's gas fermentation technology is now able to produce fuels from both industrial waste gas and biomass syngas. The biomass syngas is also attracting strong interest in the US.

However, Dr Simpson says the NZ Steel flue gas pilot, commissioned in 2008, is demonstrating the potential for processing the industrial waste gas stream. With a 1000 litre fermenter capacity, the Glenbrook plant draws gas directly from the steel making converter-off gas stream and, with minimal cleanup to remove particulates and oxygen, processes the gas through to ethanol.

Dr Simpson says the microbial fermentation of steel mill waste gases has never been attempted before because of the concerns that contaminants in the waste would inhibit conversion to ethanol. The proprietary microbe developed and owned by LanzaTech was selected based on its ability to produce ethanol from carbon monoxide.

"The steel waste gas source typically contains 40-50% CO, with only 1-2% H₂ (the balance being CO₂ and N₂)," Dr Simpson says. "LanzaTech's continuous fermentation of raw steel mill gas has shown no impact on microbial viability, growth or productivity when compared to a synthetic gas equivalent. We are able to virtually eliminate capital cost associated with gas conditioning. That's a major advantage over existing gas to liquid gas conversion technologies."

The Glenbrook pilot plant is still operating and using the insight developed through this facility and its research labs in New Zealand and the US, LanzaTech is now investigating options for the next phase of its plan to produce ethanol at a commercial scale.

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