Jennifer Holmgren explains the LanzaTech biofuel breakthrough

Name: Jennifer Holmgren
Company: LanzaTech

Role: CEO

Length at LanzaTech: 20 months

Loves: Hawaii and big planes

Hates: Winter

Recommends: Taking a vacation where there is no cell phone reception

What is different about this new type of biofuel and why has this not been possible before?

LanzaTechs unique gas fermentation technology uses a microbe to convert gas (rich in CO and CO2) into fuels and chemicals. The microbe can utilise the lowest cost, most readily available resources, including industrial flue gases from steel mills and processing plants; syngas generated from any biomass resource (e.g. MSW, organic industrial waste, agricultural waste); reformed methane and coal derived syngas. This process has been proven at a one of a kind pilot plant using unconditioned steel mill waste gases - this is of particular note as other gas fermentation technologies require expensive gas conditioning, and are limited in the range of products they can produce. This reflects why this type of technology has not been possible before.

LanzaTechs process is therefore, not only an economic process, but as it avoids competing with land/food sources to produce fuels and chemicals it address all pillars of sustainability while promoting sustainable industrial growth globally.

This is a really big breakthrough in Biofuel technology, why did you choose Virgin Atlantic as a partner?

Virgin Atlantic has a very strong sustainability mission and is committed to finding low carbon fuel solutions. This was highlighted when they got the ball rolling with their groundbreaking biofuels demo flight in 2008. They have been instrumental in developing sustainable fuel standards in the aviation sector and are known to be conscious of using real world solutions that are not only scalable but that avoid potential environmental consequences further down the track.

Virgin Atlantic have recognized LanzaTechs technology as providing an alternative option for aviation fuel that can be produced at scale economically and that has no impact on the food value chain. So it really is a case of LanzaTech and Virgin Atlantic choosing each other!

How did your partnership with Swedish Biofuels come about?

Swedish Biofuels has developed technology for the production of alternative aviation fuels and has demonstrated this technology under a project funded by the U.S. Government Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Their technology was a natural complement to LanzaTechs process as they are able to convert lanzatechs ethanol, derived from steel mills, into jet fuel. This partnership allows us to extend the raw material base for alternative aviation fuels.

Your technology is currently being tested in New Zealand, how is that going and what are the next steps for implementation?

Our pilot plant in New Zealand has been successfully operating for over 3 years and we are currently commissioning the worlds first steel waste gas to fuel demonstration plant with the largest steel company in China, BaoSteel. Further demonstration plants are on the cards in 2012 across a variety of geographies-including: a second steel waste gas plant with Shougang Steel in China; a plant using syngas from MSW with Concord Enviro in India and in the USA, a facility using syngas derived from forestry waste.

What makes this partnership so important to the future of the aviation industry?

Virgin Atlantic, a pioneer of sustainable aviation understands the need for low carbon aviation fuels for our future energy needs. With the population expected to rise to 9.1 billion by 2050, the demand for transportation fuels is expected to increase by over 40% and to meet this demand while containing CO2 growth to safe atmospheric levels requires that zero carbon renewable fuels make up more than 30% of the fuel pool. With the potential to produce over 15 billion gallons of alternative aviation fuel (about 20% of the current world aviation fuel demand) from waste steel mill gases alone, LanzaTech presents an exciting opportunity for Virgin Atlantic as an alternative to petroleum derived jet fuels.

At LanzaTech we truly believe that we need the worlds collective intellect to create solutions to our current and future energy needs. Working together with Virgin Atlantic and our other partners will allow technologies like ours to offer part of the solution.

The only way to predict the future is to create it by ---- believing in and executing your ideas.

If you could put one thing in the Big Red Box what would it be?

Our microbe should go in the Big Red Box - it is a true example of creating something useful out of nothing

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Twitter: @VirginAtlantic


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