We are putting too much carbon into our atmosphere.
A process for reducing CO₂ by converting it to ethanol has been developed by Michael Köpke at LanzaTech in Skokie, Illinois.
In 2009, Köpke obtained his PhD in microbiology and biotechnology at the University of Ulm, Germany, specialising the genetic engineering of gas fermenting organisms.
His pioneering research on Clostridium ljungdahlii demonstrated for the first time that gas fermenting acetogens can be genetically modified and provided a genetic blueprint of such an organism.
Köpke joined LanzaTech in Auckland, New Zealand, developing converting waste carbon monoxide emitted from factories into ethanol and other chemicals. LanzaTech’s carbon recycling technology is such as retrofitting a brewery onto an emission source such as a steel mill or a landfill site, but instead of using sugars and yeast to make beer, pollution is converted by bacteria to fuels and chemicals.
This is revolutionizing the way the world thinks about waste carbon by treating it as an opportunity instead of a liability.
In its first year, LanzaTech’s first pre-commercial plant in China produced over 100,000 gallons (380,000 liters) of ethanol from steel mill emissions that can be converted into aviation kerosene, plastic and products. This earned it an internationally recognized sustainability certification from the Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials in 2013.
Additional facilities may be built in California, Belgium, India, and South Africa. Together, they could produce about 77 million gallons (26 million litres) of ethanol per year from carbon waste.
In 2018, LanzaTech began testing a low carbon fuel for airplanes, which was used to fuel a Virgin Atlantic flight from Orlando to London. Initially its biofuel for Virgin only accounted for 6% of the fuel mix.
The company aims to officially launch its new LanzaJet product in 2019, which could be a potential solution for the airline industry to reduce its waste.
LanzaTech claimed it could have three gas-to-ethanol plants ready in the UK by 2025 if it secured the necessary airline customers and government backing, producing about 125 million gallons (473 million liters) of SAF a year.
In November 2019, after three years of collaboration, ExxonMobil and FuelCell Energy, Inc. signed a new, two-year expanded joint-development agreement to further enhance carbonate fuel cell technology for the purpose of capturing carbon dioxide from industrial facilities.
The agreement, worth up to US$60 million, will focus efforts on optimizing the core technology, overall process integration and large-scale deployment of carbon capture solutions. ExxonMobil is exploring options to conduct a pilot test of next-generation fuel cell carbon capture solution at one of its operating sites.
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