LanzaTech Buys Range Fuels Facility | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: January 11, 2012

LanzaTech Buys Range Fuels Facility

Revival Plan: Waste woody biomass would be transformed into jet fuel
Department: Business | Collection: Economy, Sustainability
Keywords: biomass, ethanol, biofuel, cellulosic, gasification
An aerial view of the former Range Fuels facility.
Credit: LanzaTech
Aerial photo of Range Fuels plant in Soperton, GA. The feedstock is woody biomass waste from surrounding timber operations. Bought by LanzaTech at auction
An aerial view of the former Range Fuels facility.
Credit: LanzaTech

New Zealand-based 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 produce 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 to help construct the facility.

LanzaTech will evaluate the equipment that is in place 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, it is still a good buy for the firm. “We got the facility for its location and access to cheap feedstocks from local timber operations. We plan to make renewable fuels and chemicals from waste wood.”

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 cleantech backer Vinod Khosla.

Range planned to use catalysts to convert the gas from wood chips 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 partner firms.

The Soperton site, already renamed Freedom Pines Biorefinery, will be LanzaTech’s first production facility. The firm is currently working to launch a demonstration facility in Shanghai that will use waste gases from a steel mill operated by China’s Shougang Group.

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