LanzaTech, which recycles carbon emissions into fuels and textiles, recently announced that it will merge with AMCI Acquisition Corp. II in a SPAC deal, valued at $2.2 billion, to become a publicly traded company. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2022.
TriplePundit recently spoke with LanzaTech CEO Dr. Jennifer Holmgren about what brought the carbon emissions recycling company to this moment, how her team is closing supply chain loops for a more circular, “carbon-smart” economy, and what LanzaTech has planned for the future.
LanzaTech is based in Skokie, Illinois, and works with partners around the world, including in Japan, China and India. During the last few years, the 17-year-old company has achieved proof of concept for how its gas fermentation process can create “a future where consumers are not dependent on virgin fossil feedstocks for everything in our daily lives.”
The company’s plants feature bioreactors where microbes use waste carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, siphoned from steel mills or captured from municipal solid waste, to make a proprietary blend of ethanol it brands as Lanzanol. Ethanol is a basic building block of many materials, and LanzaTech and partners have already leveraged it to make sustainable jet fuel a reality and put renewable yoga pants on the market.
“It’s really been a case of convincing people what’s possible,” Holmgren said of the company’s business model. “Our technology is one platform that we’ve optimized. [Our goal was] to convince people we’ve got your feedstock for production of consumer-grade materials, and that we’ve made it from waste.”
Holmgren said she is excited about the visibility going public will bring LanzaTech now that it has shown how its technology can work at scale. The company has two commercial plants with bioreactors and another seven in the pipeline. “We’ve been much more methodical than other companies in our sector that went public before they got their first commercial plant running,” Holmgren told 3p. “We need to step up. It’s time.”
As the no-nonsense message on LanzaTech’s website states: “It’s not a debate. There’s no two sides. A post-pollution world is inevitable. Humans will either be part of it, or the planet will go on without us. But where others see a dire choice, LanzaTech sees a trillion-dollar opportunity.”
Holmgren believes LanzaTech’s model presents a win-win solution that addresses the shortcomings of our consumption-fueled capitalist economy, which she said is badly “in need of climate justice," and gives hope “to those who understand just how bad the climate crisis really is.”
“The future is not obscene capitalism," she added. "If I can convince people that you can make money while reducing carbon emissions, I think that helps a lot.”
To that end, the company will start building out the “portfolio of molecules” at its disposal by genetically modifying ethanol. For example, Holmgren said, “instead of just making polyethylene, we can make polypropylene. Instead of making polyester, we can make acrylic.”
Right now, LanzaTech is working to make acetone and isopropanol, which should be ready in 2023.
Holmgren, who was recently named one of 25 leading women shaping climate action and who was previously named the world’s most compassionate businesswoman, puts a lot of stock in collaboration. “Doing hard things can’t only be done by an individual or a company. It has to be done by a consortium of partners," she told us.
Because the SPAC deal was announced on March 8, International Women’s Day, we asked Holmgren how it feels to helm LanzaTech as a CEO who happens to be a woman.
“Every time I sit at a table, I have to prove myself,” she acknowledged. “When it comes to the phrase ‘woman CEO,’ I have to totally forget about it so it doesn’t bog me down.”
Instead, Holmgren prefers to focus on the current moment. “I’m leading a transformative company in an industry that needs to be transformed. The carbon economy needs to be transformed. We’re ready to step up into the light and show people what is possible.”
And within the company, Holmgren doesn’t want the larger implications of LanzaTech's work for people and planet to be lost. “Our company culture is about not just doing good but being good citizens,” she said.
As of 2022, LanzaTech’s plants have produced over 30 million gallons of ethanol, the equivalent of offsetting 150,000 metric tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. Not only does the process convert more than 90 percent of the carbon in CO2 gas streams into ethanol, but the company says its systems also recycle over 90 percent of the water they use and utilize the spent bacterial biomass as a nutrition source for aquaculture.
Image credit: LanzaTech Investor Relations
Chloé is a content marketer and storyteller in the sustainability, SaaS, and education fields. From NYC and based in Odense, Denmark, she is a foodie and frequent traveler most likely to be found in a café. She writes about coffee, food waste, sustainability innovation, and environmental conservation.