Waste gas could offer economical route to renewable butadiene

13 May 2014 18:17 Source:ICIS News

PHILADELPHIA (ICIS)--Waste carbon can be an economical and stable resource for producing renewable butadiene (BD) and other valuable commodity chemicals, a senior engineer with biotech company LanzaTech said on Tuesday.

LanzaTech has been able to engineer a microorganism that uses carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen as energy to produce ethanol and 2,3-butanediol (2,3-BDO), which can be converted into BD, said Robert Conrado, senior development engineer at LanzaTech, during a panel discussion at the 11th annual World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology.

For the feedstock, LanzaTech can use waste gases from industry, natural gas, solid waste biomass and inorganic CO2, which are then converted into syngas that can fuel the facility and be fermented by biological processes.

"We're focused on these feedstocks because they're completely outside the food value chain," he said.

The feedstocks are also available in large quantities. The steel industry alone creates 20bn gal/year (76bn litres/year) of waste gases, he said.

Since the gases are not a commodity, it gives price stability compared to the current BD market, Conrado said. Less butadiene has been produced in the US of late from petroleum sources as crackers have been processing more ethane instead of naphtha.

LanzaTech, which was founded in New Zealand but now headquartered in Chicago, currently operates a pilot plant in New Zealand that is being fed by waste gas from a steel mill. Demonstration plants are also running in China and Taiwan, he said.

The 11th annual World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology runs through Thursday in Philadelphia.

By Jessie Waldheim