Interview: LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren

fortune-green-2013TriplePundit reported live from the Fortune Brainstorm Green 2013 conference in Laguna Niguel, CA. Follow along on this page for ongoing video interviews with sustainability thought leaders, corporate change agents and entrepreneurs who are leading the way to a more sustainable future.

The quest for sustainably produced liquid biofuel has been a popular topic on 3p for many years.  It’s even better when it can be produced from waste – not interfering with crops otherwise meant for food. LanzaTech is a U.S.-based startup operating mostly in China who have figured out how to create a variety of useful chemical products from carbon monoxide. Among the world’s most notorious CO producers are steel mills, hence LanzaTech’s primary operations are in China – where very dirty steel mills are common.

The company’s process extracts CO from a steel mill’s waste stream and processes it in a bioreactor containing a special brew of microbes who convert the deadly gas into ethanol and other products. Since CO would otherwise be flared into the atmosphere to become CO2, the process is also averting some of the negative climactic externalities of steel plant. Specifically, according to LanzaTech, about one metric ton of CO2 is averted for every 175 gallons of ethanol the process creates.

The microbe in question is called a clostridium, categorized as a WHO-risk 1 organism (the same as baker’s yeast). LanzaTech has not GMOd it to make its first products – ethanol and butanediol.  However, the company is investigating GMO versions that could be used to make additional chemicals.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He was instrumental in the creation of TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years as well as an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.