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LanzaTech and Argonne National Lab awarded funding for SAF pre-pilot

US-headed biotechnology company and carbon recycler LanzaTech Inc., has announced that it, in partnership with the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) has been awarded over US$3.9 million to build and operate a pre-pilot facility to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from biogenic waste carbon dioxide gas (CO2), such as is emitted from corn refining, and renewable hydrogen (H2).

Alcohol-to-jet production units at LanzaTech Freedom Pines Biorefinery in Soperton, Georgia. (photo courtesy LanzaTech).

Alcohol-to-jet (AtJ) production units at LanzaTech Freedom Pines Biorefinery in Soperton, Georgia (GA). LanzaTech Inc., in partnership with the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) has been awarded over US$3.9 million to build and operate a pre-pilot facility to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from biogenic waste carbon dioxide gas (CO2), and renewable hydrogen (photo courtesy LanzaTech).

The White House has recently set a goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050, saying it could cut emissions from flying by 20 percent by the end of the decade.

To help meet that goal, the US Department of Energy (DOE), announced more than US$64 million in funding for 22 projects focused on developing technologies and processes that produce low-cost, low-carbon biofuels as part of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge.

Tapping into green CO2 with CCU

Low-cost renewable electricity provides abundant opportunities to transform and decarbonize the energy economy through electrification. The aviation sector, however, has only limited options to benefit directly from renewable electricity and remains heavily dependent on energy-dense liquid fuels.

On the other hand, CO2 utilization requires an energy source, and with this award, renewable electricity will be used to produce green H2, which will provide sustainable energy to convert the waste CO2.

In partnership with ANL, LanzaTech will build and operate a pre-pilot facility to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from biogenic waste CO2 and renewable hydrogen (H2) – carbon capture and utilization (CCU) – at its Soperton biorefinery site in Georgia (GA).

The collaboration between LanzaTech, ANL, and LanzaTech subsidiary LanzaJet, will support The White House’s goal in replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives.

Decarbonizing transportation – particularly planes and ships that are difficult to electrify – is an essential part of the path to a net-zero carbon future. These investments mobilize industries to join this effort, which will create new, good-paying jobs across the biofuels, chemical, and agricultural supply chains and boost economic activity in rural economies, said Jennifer M. Granholm, Secretary of Energy.

Accelerate commercial rollout

Under the award, LanzaTech will use renewable power from an onsite solar farm at Soperton to demonstrate how efficient CO2 conversion with its technology can be, producing the equivalent of 35 (US) gallons (≈ 132.5 litres) per day of fuel.

LanzaTech will provide the CO2-derived ethanol to LanzaJet for conversion to SAF, via the LanzaJet Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) process, developed by LanzaTech and DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). This process can use any source of ethanol to make fuel.

We’re at an inflection point for tackling climate change and for deploying technologies that work today to decarbonize sectors like aviation. The whole government approach taken by the United States is a great example of what it takes to build a new industry and with urgency. The US Department of Energy continues to be a terrific partner in catalyzing new technology. This project with LanzaTech and Argonne National Laboratory shows the versatility of ethanol feedstock for our LanzaJet Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) technology. We can enable the energy transition that’s required by partnering with the corn ethanol and refining industries to recycle what would have been emitted carbon to instead create sustainable aviation and transportation fuels. It’s a win for the climate, a win for an existing industry, and a win for renewables, said Jimmy Samartzis, CEO of LanzaJet.

The technology has the potential to produce billions of gallons of domestic low-carbon SAF from the biogenic CO2 emitted by existing US corn ethanol plants, with GHG savings of near 100 percent relative to fossil jet fuel.

As additional captured CO2 becomes available, including CO2 from direct air capture (DAC), the SAF production potential will only grow, and GHG savings will increase. This is key as airline commitments and mandates are focused on SAF that can deliver the greatest carbon savings.

As efficiency increases and more renewable power is used, the carbon intensity (CI) of the fuel goes down, making it a more desirable option for airlines to meet their net-zero targets.

Argonne is thrilled for the chance to help push the nation closer to meeting its environmental goals by further examining the possibility of biofuels in aviation. Using its one-of-a-kind GREET model, the laboratory will evaluate the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of LanzaTech’s jet fuel production pathway to quantify the potential reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of jet fuels made from waste CO2. It is an honor to do this work: This partnership could mark a major step forward in aviation, said Uisung Lee, ANL.

The grant made by the DOE will enable the rapid commercialization of SAF from carbon emissions. The funding will not only drive down the cost of producing SAF from renewable electricity and CO2, but it will also create domestic jobs in a growing industry.

Our partnership with Argonne Labs comes at a critical time in our global fight to bend our carbon curve. This is our opportunity to decarbonize the aviation industry using the very problem that is causing climate change. With the support of the US government, we will be able to produce SAF in Soperton, Georgia, and create a powerful new sustainable industry that refines CO2, delivers on US climate targets, and establishes the US as a global leader in sustainable aviation. LanzaTech is ready for the challenge, and we are grateful to the DOE for this opportunity, said Dr Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech.

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