September 23, 2021 Freya Burton

Potential to Produce 5B Gallons of Sustainable Aviation Fuel from CO2

LanzaTech and Argonne National Lab Awarded funding for Aviation Project in Georgia.

  The White House 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 Department of Energy (DOE), announced more than $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.

LanzaTech, a biotechnology company and a global leader in gas fermentation, making sustainable fuels and chemicals via biological conversion of waste carbon emissions, in partnership with the Energy Department’s Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) was selected to build and operate a pre-pilot facility to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from biogenic waste carbon dioxide (CO2) such as is emitted from corn refining, and renewable hydrogen (H2).

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. CO2 utilization requires an energy source, and with this award, renewable electricity will be used to produce green H2, that will provide sustainable energy to convert the waste CO2. Under the award, LanzaTech will use renewable power from an onsite solar farm at the Soperton site to show how efficient CO2 conversion with their technology can be, producing the equivalent of 35 gal/day of fuel.

The collaboration between LanzaTech, ANL, and LanzaJet, will support The White House’s goal in replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives. LanzaTech will provide the CO2-derived ethanol to LanzaJet for conversion to SAF in Soperton, GA, via the LanzaJetä Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) Process, developed by LanzaTech and DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). The LanzaJetä ATJ Process can use any source of sustainable ethanol to make fuel.

The technology has the potential to produce billions of gallons of domestic low-carbon SAF from the CO2 emitted by existing U.S. corn ethanol plants, with GHG savings of near 100% relative to fossil jet fuel. As additional captured CO2 becomes available, including CO2 from direct air capture, 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 of the fuel goes down, making it a more desirable option for airlines to meet their net zero targets.

The grant made by the DOE in support of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge 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.

Jennifer M. Granholm, Secretary of Energy said:

“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.”

Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech, said:

“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.”

Uisung Lee, Argonne National Lab, said:

“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.”

Jimmy Samartzis, CEO of LanzaJet, said:

“We’re at an inflection point for tackling climate change and for deploying technologies that work today to decarbonize sectors like aviation. The whole of government approach taken by the United States is a great example for 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 LanzaJetä 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 climate, a win for existing industry, and a win for renewables.”