The partnership between carbon recycling technology company LanzaTech and multinational chemicals company BASF, who together aim to transform the carbon contained in industrial off-gases into valuable chemicals, has achieved a key first success.
The companies announced in May that, with the help of special bacteria, the companies have been able to produce n-octanol at laboratory scale from carbon monoxide and hydrogen, the main components of emissions, for example from the steel industry.
N-octanol is an important molecule that is used in cosmetics, among other uses.
“By connecting our competencies, we can speed-up bringing more sustainable products to the market,” says BASF process research and chemicals engineering research division president Dr Detlef Kratz.
He adds the interdisciplinary cooperation between biologists, biochemists and engineers is decisive for successful outcomes in the field of white biotechnology and therefore, also for the success of this project.
In this collaboration, LanzaTech contributes its unique, innovative gas fermentation technology, while BASF provides its expertise in the development and operation of chemical processes.
“The integration of LanzaTech’s gas fermentation technology into BASF’s Verbund enables us to take an important step towards a carbon-neutral circular economy,” he adds.
“Our climate is changing, and the world is anxiously watching while we develop urgently needed technologies to keep the important raw material, carbon, in the cycle,” says LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren.
She points out that BASF is leading the way in rethinking the chemicals supply chain, by embracing a circular model of transforming waste carbon into new materials and keeping fossil fuels in the ground.
Until now, industrial exhaust gases have either been flared or recovered for energy and used to produce electricity and steam.
In this partnership, the two companies are working on a process using a biological capability that will allow the carbon in the off-gas to be used as a raw material for the production of chemical products like n-octanol.
This was developed by University of South Florida professor Dr Ramon Gonzalez.
This innovative carbon recycling approach thereby reduces carbon emissions from the industrial site and keeps fossil resources in the ground.
LanzaTech’s technology is already deployed at commercial scale transforming exhaust gas from steel production into ethanol.
The collaboration has now paved the way to produce high value chemicals, such as noctanol through gas fermentation.
Within just a few months, the companies have not only developed a suitable strain of bacteria to produce this important alcohol, they have also designed an innovative process concept to allow continuous product generation and purification.
As a next step, the teams will focus on optimising the biology and technology design to deliver an efficient production process.