energy transition

LanzaJet Sees More Opportunities With Partner's Listing

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US-based sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) producer LanzaJet is making progress on several projects around the globe, with its flagship commercial plant in Georgia due to start up this year. But the recent public listing of its business partner LanzaTech could open up even more opportunities for LanzaJet to deploy its unique technology and get closer to its goal of producing 1 billion gallons per year of SAF by 2030, LanzaJet CEO Jimmy Samartzis tells Energy Intelligence.

“More and more folks are now interested in LanzaTech and their technology,” Samartzis said on the sidelines of CERAWeek by S&P Global earlier this month. “As they're having those discussions around ethanol and the production of ethanol from waste sources, there's a natural desire to want to talk about getting to SAF as well. So for us, it's an additional opportunity, in terms of continuing to build our company and our business and partnering with LanzaTech to deliver a joint solution to their customer base.”

LanzaJet’s “alcohol-to-jet” (ATJ) technology was invented and developed by LanzaTech last decade and was spun into a standalone private company in 2020. LanzaTech, which started trading on the Nasdaq exchange last month, currently owns 25% of its subsidiary. A multinational group comprising Mitsui, Suncor Energy, British Airways and Shell are LanzaJet’s other shareholders and have collectively committed to invest up to $165 million in the SAF producer.

Project Development

These early investments helped to finance the development and construction of LanzaJet’s first commercial plant, the 10 million gallon/yr Freedom Pines Fuels demonstration facility located in Soperton, Georgia. The first-of-its-kind plant will double the current SAF production in the US, according to the company. Commissioning and startup are expected this year. The plant will process ethanol that comes primarily through the Port of Savannah, less than 100 miles to the east. The ethanol will be combined with hydrogen produced by an electrolyzer that will be powered by the local grid, at least initially. The port will serve as both an ethanol-delivery point and a storage site for LanzaJet. “Our site has storage, but not a lot, meaning it has days of storage instead of weeks and months. So we use the terminal at Savannah as additional storage so we can bring in more ethanol, store it and then bring it to the facility,” Samartzis explains.

While Freedom Pines will be the world’s first ethanol-based ATJ plant, the project has deeper importance for LanzaJet. If the facility hits certain performance milestones, LanzaJet’s investor group has agreed to make a “second tranche” of cash investments that would “fund the development and operation of commercial facilities by Mitsui, Shell, British Airways and Suncor, respectively,” according to a LanzaTech securities filing. Upon closing of that next tranche, LanzaJet would then issue additional shares to LanzaTech, which could ultimately control a 57% stake in the SAF producer.

Going Global

LanzaJet has announced plans to develop several additional facilities, both with its investor partners and with third parties. It signed a joint venture last month with integrated national oil company Indian Oil to potentially build a plant in India. And it is hoping to start construction this year on a scheme dubbed Project Speedbird in the UK’s northeast alongside British Airways and ethanol-feedstock provider Nova Pangaea. That facility is expected to start up in 2026 and would produce 102 million liters (27 million gallons) of SAF a year that are committed to British Airways. It would be the first plant in the UK to use agricultural and wood waste to make SAF. Project Speedbird has already applied for funding under a UK Department for Transport (DfT) program. Samartzis says DfT is expected to announce the next stage of grant funding this spring, and LanzaJet will apply for that as well.

Feedstock availability is a key determining factor in how big a LanzaJet facility can be, the CEO says. “What part of the world you're in is going to determine what you can use as a feedstock,” Samartzis says. “So if you're in Europe [or] the UK, you're going to have to use a waste-based ethanol as your feedstock. There isn't much waste-based ethanol around, so by default you're likely going to build smaller facilities in places like the UK and Europe. In North and South America, where you have lots of ethanol, you're likely to scale up the technology to take advantage of the market opportunity.” Last year LanzaJet began engineering a 120 million gallon/yr plant in Illinois with ethanol producer Marquis, one of the largest projects it has announced to date.

Combining Technologies

LanzaJet also has several projects in the works with LanzaTech. One UK development, dubbed Project Dragon, aims to produce more than 100 million liters/yr of SAF. Located in South Wales, it will use ethanol produced from a variety of waste feedstocks, including off gases from a steel mill. Another UK project, AtmosFuel, would use CO2 sourced via direct air capture and converted to ethanol and then to SAF. It's not immediately clear where that LanzaTech-led project stands: a spokesperson said a feasibility study was completed in 2022. Samartzis declined to comment on AtmosFuel’s status, but noted that “we can always add the LanzaJet back-end to any ethanol-production process.”

Versatility of its platform is a key advantage for LanzaJet because it allows the company to secure competitive feedstock pricing. That means closer price parity with conventional jet fuel for customers, Samartzis says. With LanzaTech as a partner, he says “we can take a source (of ethanol) that has today no value and create value from it … We can … create a much more attractively priced SAF product because we're not in the market buying ethanol at market pricing — we're able to produce our own ethanol from the waste source.”

Biofuels (incl. SAF), Emerging Technologies
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