Ethanol is usually made from crops such as corn or wheat. But Skokie, Ill.-based LanzaTech has developed a process to obtain the fuel from waste gas, such as the carbon monoxide produced by steel plants. Steelmakers in Asia were the first to try the technology, and now it’s coming to Europe.
ArcelorMittal, which calls itself the world’s leading steel and mining company, says it will build a $100 million facility at a steel mill in Ghent, Belgium, that will produce 15 million gal of ethanol per year using LanzaTech microbes that convert CO into the alcohol. If the plant works, ArcelorMittal plans to add ethanol production across its European operations.
Gaining a foothold in Europe will surely add to the buzz around LanzaTech. Last week, the company received a 2015 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (see page 5).
LanzaTech has had success in Asia, including collaboration with China Steel, but its fermentation technology isn’t well-known. Industry watchers expect to learn more as it is implemented in Europe.
“It means further validation and is another full step toward mainstream understanding and acceptance,” says Sam Nejame, chief executive officer of the technology consultancy Promotum.
Making ethanol from emissions could be profitable in Europe, Nejame adds, thanks to significant carbon credits awarded to such fuel. Replacing gasoline with LanzaTech ethanol reduces carbon emissions by 80%, the company says.
According to ArcelorMittal, roughly half of the carbon used to make steel becomes CO waste. Plants can either flare the gas or combust it for heat, releasing CO2 either way. Making ethanol will have a meaningful impact on ArcelorMittal’s carbon footprint, the company says.