Issue Date: April 30, 2007
New Zealand Firm Intends To Convert Carbon Monoxide To Ethanol
LanzaTech, a start-up energy company based in New Zealand, has a plan to microbially convert carbon monoxide into ethanol. Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist with a taste for alternative energy investments, decided last week to invest in the firm, which plans to get its feedstock as a by-product of steel manufacturing.
Together with two New Zealand-based investors, Khosla's investment company, Khosla Ventures, will put $3.5 million into the start-up to help it undertake additional technology development.
LanzaTech says its know-how could produce 50 billion gal of ethanol annually from the world's steel mills alone. "We have proven in our laboratories that the carbon monoxide in industrial waste gases can be processed by bacterial fermentation to produce ethanol," says Sean Simpson, LanzaTech's founder and chief scientist.
Khosla points out that LanzaTech's bacterial fermentation skills will help reduce emissions and turn a waste gas into a valuable product.
Many fuel ethanol start-ups also rely on bacteria, but mostly to convert carbohydrates derived from corn or cellulose into ethanol. Although LanzaTech plans initially to convert the carbon monoxide in steel mill waste gases to ethanol, the company points out that it can also gasify cellulosic materials and use the carbon monoxide in the resultant synthesis gas to make ethanol.
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