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☁️ "Carbon Recycling: Microbes, Jet Fuel and Leggings"

The Interchange

Photo by Nicola Styles / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Shayle Kann
Guest: Dr. Jennifer Holmgren | CEO | LanzaTech
Category: ☁️ Carbon Reduction

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[5:51] “You're used to the fermentation of sugar making beer, making wine. What we do is we have a bacteria that eats gases, hydrogen, CO, and CO2. And so these are gases that you would commonly find in an industrial site. These are gases that you would find if you take solids, and gasify them. And these can all be converted to ethanol by our bacteria. It's a naturally occurring organism and so all we've done is optimize it so that it gets much, much more efficient at taking gases and making ethanol. The other key thing […] is, you're used to a batch process, you put the sugar and the yeast and you leave it alone for a while. This is a continuous process. So we also had to develop a new reactor system that allowed these gases that are not soluble, to contact the water, which is where the bacteria is swimming. So there's a lot of things that we have to do to be able to scale this technology, but actually [it] looks much more like a refinery, then a fermentation.”

[7:43] “We had to commercialize gas fermentation, which nobody had ever commercialized. So we just wanted to let the bacteria do what it wanted to do, which is make ethanol and we just optimized around that. We didn't feel that we needed to teach it to do cartwheels. Ethanol was a good enough product. […] We don't think of ethanol as a gasoline blending component. That is not why we make ethanol. We make ethanol so that we can aggregate this carbon in all of these waste resources. The carbon and energy gets aggregated by conversion to ethanol, and then we can move the ethanol around. You're not going to move municipal solid waste, you're not going to move an industrial gas. And so what we're actually doing is we're letting the bacteria do what it knows how to do. We've optimized it to make economic sense, we have ethanol, and then we take ethanol and use it as a feedstock for everything else we want to make.”

[9:21] “Initially, ethanol was a perfectly good product and one that everybody wanted to make. But with time, it became clearer […] that the internal combustion engine wasn't long for this world. And so we needed to find an ability to do other things with that ethanol. And […] all of a sudden, people cared about where the polyester in the clothing came from. And so all of a sudden, it became logical to transition to […] ethylene. And guess what, ethylene is how we make everything in the world today.”

[10:44] “If you're looking at carbon monoxide, that is a byproduct of steel production. […] So we're essentially preventing it from going out into the atmosphere. Depending upon where the steel mill is, we prevent on the order of 50 to 100,000 tons of CO2 from going out the flue per facility that makes about 15 million gallons of ethanol. So […] we're mitigating this emission. It's also important to note that when you think about combustion, right, burning this carbon monoxide, you also get a lot of particulate emissions. We work in a lot of places where the sky is black. And that is from this combustion. And so we're actually preventing both of those problems, the particular emissions and the greenhouse gas emissions. So we believe that if we aggregate all the industrial waste and all of the gasified solids, we could take a chunk of about 7% of the […] global CO2 emissions. […] We have been taking CO2 and combining it with green hydrogen to make ethanol. […] We're doing an aviation project with carbon engineering where they are going to take […] CO2 out of the air, and we're going to convert it to ethanol, and then we'll convert it to jet fuel.”

[17:41] “I think most of us think that we're going to eliminate fossil carbon, from our economy by decarbonizing the power sector, or potentially transitioning all of our fuels, whether they be gasoline or diesel. But at the end of the day, 30% of today's fossil inputs go to making all the things you and I use in our daily lives, from our children's toys, to our apparel, to our shoes, to the rubber in our tires. And we're going to have to take that out too, we're going to have to decarbonize all of that.”

[24:13] “I remember when we first started trying to sell our fuel grade ethanol .[…] And so then everybody started to really see that recycled carbon was a thing. And so getting past mentally, what people are thinking and their barriers to accepting a product actually is as big a challenge as that technology. I would not underestimate that it's just technology. It's acceptance of a new idea.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 39 min | 🗓️ 10/01/2021
✅ Time saved: 37 min