Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



LanzaTech Plants New Zealand Flag on New Waste Gas-to-Ethanol Process

LanzaTech of New Zealand develops microbe that converts waste gas from steel mills into pure ethanol.LanzaTech, a small company based in New Zealand, has developed a proprietary microbe that feasts on the carbon monoxide in waste gas from steel mills and converts it to pure ethanol.  Last year the company launched a pilot facility at the New Zealand Steel plant near the city of Auckland, and its microbes have been happily churning out ethanol without the need for expensive pre-conditioning to remove contaminants.


LanzaTech has found that the same low-cost technology can be applied to biomass syngas, but the real excitement is in the success of this first-ever attempt to capture and convert steel mill waste gas into a clean, sustainable fuel.

LanzaTech and Steel Mill Waste Gas

LanzaTech was founded in 2005 specifically to develop a microbe-based process for harvesting ethanol from steel waste gas.  Steel mill waste gas has some ideal properties for microbial fermentation, namely a high concentration of carbon monoxide with little or no hydrogen, but according to company co-founder Dr. Sean Simpson the attempt had never been made due to concerns that contaminants would disable the microbes.  In the New Zealand Steel pilot project, LanzaTech’s microbes are actually thriving in the toxic soup, demonstrating that when you have the right microbe for the job, the expensive infrastructure required to pre-condition waste gas is not needed.

LanzaTech and Biomass Syngas

LanzaTech’s propriety microbe is “feedstock agnostic,” meaning that it can also work on practically any biomass syngas, which is carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas produced through the breakdown of organic matter.  That includes municipal waste and other next-generation biofuel sources such as woody biomass and other non-food plants.  According to LanzaTech, gassification makes over 90% of the energy in biomass available for fermentation, giving it a clear advantage over other technologies.  After scrubbing and cooling, the gas is sent to a bioreactor where it becomes food for the microbes.  According to Dr. Simpson, because LanzaTech’s microbes eat only carbon monoxide the resulting ethanol is a high octane premium fuel.

Microbes and Sustainability

A similar waste gas-to-ethanol experiment is progressing at Coskata Inc. and this is only the first ripple ahead of a new wave of energy-harvesting microbes in our future.  Researchers are also developing microbes that can generate electricity from mud and wastewater, as well as microbes that can generate methane from an electrical current, potentially creating efficient, low-cost storage for electricity produced by solar and wind farms. In the sci-fi classic War of the Worlds, author H.G. Wells positioned microorganisms as humankind’s sole defense against planet-destroying aliens.  In an odd twist of fate, companies like LanzaTech are bringing fiction to life, using microbes to create sustainable energy that will eventually replace planet-destroying practices such as mountaintop coal mining.

Image: Flag of New Zealand by Takuta on

Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality and cleantech news coverage? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.

Don't want to miss a cleantech story? Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


You May Also Like


New Zealand’s aggressive bonus malus approach has enabled a fully electric vehicle (BEV), the Tesla Model Y, to become the top selling car in...

Clean Transport

While EV enthusiasts in Australia and New Zealand might be holding out for a Rivian or a Ford F-150 Lightning, they may have to...

Clean Transport

The Renewable Energy Standard that mandates the use of ethanol in fuels is up for review this year. Should it be abolished?


New Zealand has gotten the electric car fever, and August showed that more than ever before. Last month, 23% of new auto sales were...

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.