Skokie, IL-based LanzaTech Inc. and its two partners have received $4.1 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to explore using recycled carbon dioxide (CO2) as a feedstock for ethanol.

Department of Energy

LanzaTech with partners The University of Michigan (UM) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) plan to enhance existing technology to enable the direct conversion of CO2 to ethanol. 

Under the partnership, LanzaTech said Tuesday it is tasked with assembling an affordable, low-emission gas fermentation process using renewable hydrogen to capture and convert CO2 into fuels and chemicals. UM biochemistry professor Stephen Ragsdale would support the project, while ORNL would contribute its expertise in mass spectrometry-based metabolomics and proteomics.

With U.S. companies moving toward decarbonization efforts, funding for the program comes “at a critical time when companies and government are desperately searching for solutions in reducing carbon emissions,” said LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren. “Moving to an industry based on refining CO2 rather than oil allows us to harness the very basis of the climate crisis as a climate solution.”

The technology, if successfully developed, could result in the replacement of the fossil fuels used to produce common household items such as cleaners, perfumes, textiles and packaging with lower-carbon ingredients.

The technology could be integrated with other CO2 sources, such as corn grain ethanol refining in the near term, and direct air capture in the long term. At commercial scale, the proposed carbon refinery process would only require carbon-free renewable energy, water and CO2. 

The funds were allocated from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy under its Carbon Negative Chemical Production Platform.  

The DOE previously awarded LanzaTech for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines (Co-Optima) initiative. Through Co-Optima, LanzaTech was awarded up to $300,000 for research and development on gasoline-boiling-range fuel with advanced fuel properties. 

Last June, following a decade of technology development on lower-carbon, ethanol-based jet fuel, LanzaTech established subsidiary LanzaJet Inc. LanzaJet recently announced that supermajor Royal Dutch Shell plc became an investor.