It’s not difficult to be a fan of LanzaTech, the Kiwi company that uses proprietary bacteria to convert smoke stack waste gases into useful products such as ethanol.
Having got its technology up and running at the Glenbrook steel mill, LanzaTech’s just signed its third deal with an Asian partner to develop and trial new plant.
This time it is with Posco, a Korean conglomerate that produced 33.7 million tonnes of crude steel last year. LanzaTech signed a last year with Baosteel, a leading Chinese producer, and earlier this year with Indian Oil, the subcontinent’s largest petrol seller.
Each of these are JV’s and a trial – not the least because each plant has slightly different output gases, and different requirements.
Word has it that these may be the last development and experimental type operations – you can’t go on trialing forever.
But LanzaTech, whose goal is to become a billion dollar company within the next seven to 10 years, isn’t resting on its laurels.
It’s present technology base converts carbon monoxide, requiring not outside energy source to start or maintain the bacterial conversion, to the before-mentioned ethanol, as well as high value chemicals such as 2,3-Butenediol (2,3-BD), a key building block used to make polymers, plastics and hydrocarbon fuels such as jet fuel.
It’s use of renewable, non-food resources as the feed stock is one of the reasons it has been voted as one of the globe’s top 100 cleantech companies, as well as the target of investment from Stephen Tindall’s K1W1 venture capital fund and Silicon Valley’s Khosla Ventures.
Such a process would provide a globally important step to minimise the impact of CO2 emissions. Apparently 60% of the USA’s CO2 emissions are from the production of electricity. Imagine the environmental benefit, let alone the economic returns for LanzaTech of being able to fix this form of carbon in everyday items.
LanzaTech’s possibly one of the most exciting tech stories in New Zealand, one that flies under the radar because it isn’t listed on the NZX.
It may list, but more likely in China.
However, it wants to retain it IP base in New Zealand – and given firstly the excitement of its science, and secondly the attraction of our place for clever researchers and engineers as a place to live, let’s hope it doesn’t get forced overseas.
There’s plenty of precedents overseas for what have become large corporate players in different business segments beginning, and remaining in way out the back of who knows where it is.
Sure, New Zealand’s right at the edge of the world.
But, as an edgy place, New Zealand’s not too bad in the scheme of things to raise a family and have a life, and the desirability of our location may be enough to continue to attract the seriously smart people it will need to continue its development.