Issue Date: January 16, 2012
LanzaTech Buys Range Fuels Facility
New Zealand-based biofuels start-up LanzaTech purchased a facility in Soperton, Ga.—previously owned by Range Fuels—at auction on Jan. 3 for $5.1 million. Range built the biomass gasification plant with the intention of making ethanol from wood chips, but the firm was unable to make the biofuel.
Range’s lender took control of the facility for nonpayment and held the auction to recoup some of a $38 million loan, which had been guaranteed by the Department of Agriculture. Range was also awarded a $43 million grant from the Department of Energy.
LanzaTech will evaluate the equipment at the Soperton site before it decides how it will use the property, says Freya Burton, the firm’s head of external relations. “We are planning to leave up some of the plant’s technology—potentially the gasifier. If it works, that would be fantastic,” Burton says. If the gasifier does not work, she adds, the plant is still a good buy. “We got the facility for its location and access to cheap feedstocks from local timber operations.”
The technologies from both LanzaTech and Range Fuels are geared to produce ethanol from biomass-derived synthesis gas. The two privately held firms also share a venture capital investor: famed clean technology backer Vinod Khosla.
Range planned to use catalysts to convert the wood-derived gas into ethanol. In contrast, LanzaTech’s process uses proprietary microbes to transform the gas to ethanol. In addition to ethanol, LanzaTech’s microbes produce 2,3-butanediol as a coproduct, Burton reports. Both products can be formulated into jet fuel with help from LanzaTech’s partner firms.
The bargain price of the facility—and LanzaTech’s unique microbe—makes the move low risk, says Andrew Soare, clean technology analyst for Lux Research. “It could demonstrate that LanzaTech can go from gas to fuel, whereas other firms with gasification are having trouble getting all the way to ethanol.”
- Chemical & Engineering News
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