Every day, factories around the globe belch out tons of carbon emissions into the air and hasten the effects of climate change. It seems inevitable: Fossil fuels go in, pollution comes out, and the world inches closer to the end.
But what if those carbon emissions could be put to use instead?
That’s what LanzaTech is trying to accomplish. On Tuesday, the company announced that it received a $72 million Series E round to advance its carbon recycling solution.
Founded in 2005, the Skokie-based company has developed a process that recycles pollution and turns it into low carbon chemicals and fuels like ethanol. In order to understand how they do it, it’s helpful to think about everybody’s favorite frothy beverage — beer.
We give carbon a second chance in life.”
Just as a brewer uses yeast and sugar to make alcohol, LanzaTech has created a process that uses pollution and naturally occurring bacteria. That bacteria then eats the pollution and creates energy sources. The process could help a steel mill recycle 120,000 tons of carbon a year, which would be the equivalent of removing 100,000 cars from the road, said Freya Burton, chief sustainability and people officer at LanzaTech.
“We give carbon a second chance in life,” Burton told Built In. “We don’t believe in single use carbon, be it from making steel or packaging. We should treat all carbon as we do diamonds.”
But the process doesn’t just reduce pollution, it also disrupts the chemical industry, Burton said. Factories are able to control what chemicals they produce by swapping out bacteria. If ethanol isn’t selling, they can clean the tanks, introduce a new bacteria, and within 24 hours, start producing a new fuel.
LanzaTech licenses its pollution microbrewery solution out to factories to speed up its adoption. So far, its system is being used at a steel mill in China, and it is being retrofitted into five other factories around the globe.
Still, its solution takes time to implement, and that’s where this latest round comes in. Nova Holdings led the round, which will help LanzaTech reach more customers and usher in the next phase of its development.
“This funding came at a good time,” Burton said. “We started operating one commercial plant, but there’s so much more we can be doing and we’re getting more plants up and running.”
Last year, the company began testing a low carbon fuel for airplanes, which was used to fuel a Virgin Atlantic flight from Orlando to London. The company aims to officially launch its new LanzaJet product later this year, which could be a potential solution for the airline industry to reduce its waste.
Meanwhile, Burton said they plan to continue growing in Chicago, adding between 25 to 30 employees to its 160-person team.
Eventually, the company hopes to turn all carbon emissions into a frothy pint of pure energy and leave the world a cleaner place.
“If we could access all of the carbon waste produced from steel mills, refinery gases, burning agriculture residue and trash that gets burned, we estimate that we can reduce seven percent of global CO2 emissions,” Burton said. “We believe we can capture that and give it value.”