New Zealand-based waste gas and syngas to fuels company LanzaTech (earlier post) has attracted US$18 million in Series B financing from investors led by China-focused venture capital firm Qiming Ventures.

LanzaTech uses proprietary bacteria to convert industrial waste gases into fuels and chemicals. The financing follows LanzaTech’s signing with Baosteel, China’s largest steel and iron conglomerate, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) to commercialize its technologies for producing ethanol from steel mill off gases.

Since its Series A funding in 2007, LanzaTech has proven its process using unconditioned gas streams directly from a NZ Steel mill in Auckland to make fuel ethanol. Dr. Sean Simpson, co-founder of LanzaTech, says the funding will enable LanzaTech to further accelerate commercialization of its process.

We plan to have a pre-commercial plant operational in 2011 with plans to quickly scale to a commercial facility producing over 200 million liters of ethanol per year. The funding will also see expansion of the company’s focus to include the use of CO2 as a feedstock gas.

—Dr Simpson

LanzaTech estimates its bacteria-based approach could produce more than 120 billion liters of ethanol per year using existing steel mill gases alone.

Gary Rieschel, Founder and Managing Director of Qiming, says Lanzatech represents a great opportunity for China.

The significance of its technology means that fuel can be produced with no impact on food supply or land use. Using industrial waste gases curbs GHG emissions and so maintains manufacturing sustainability in China.

—Gary Reischel

Qiming Ventures has been joined by Softbank China Venture Capital and two existing investors from the Series A round, Khosla Ventures in the US and New Zealand based K1W1.

LanzaTech has been working with a number of organisms, including: Geobacter sulfurreducens, Clostridium autoethanogenum, Moorella thermoacetica, Clostridium ultunense, Clostridium ljungdahlii, Caldanaerobacter subterraneus subsp. pacificus, and Carboxydothermus hydrogenoformans.

A paper just published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that C. ljungdahlii can be used as a unique microbial production platform based on synthesis gas and carbon dioxide/hydrogen mixtures. (Lead author Michael Köpke, formerly with Universität Ulm, is now affiliated with LanzaTech.)

Sequencing the complete genome of C. ljungdahlii revealed that it comprises 4,630,065 bp and is one of the largest clostridial genomes known to date. Experimental data and in silico comparisons revealed a third mode of anaerobic homoacetogenic metabolism. Unlike other organisms such as Moorella thermoacetica or Acetobacterium woodii, neither cytochromes nor sodium ions are involved in energy generation. Instead, an Rnf system is present, by which proton translocation can be performed. An electroporation procedure has been developed to transform the organism with plasmids bearing heterologous genes for butanol production. Successful expression of these genes could be demonstrated, leading to formation of the biofuel. Thus, C. ljungdahlii can be used as a unique microbial production platform based on synthesis gas and carbon dioxide/hydrogen mixtures.

—Köpke et al.


  • Michael Köpke et al. (2010) Clostridium ljungdahlii represents a microbial production platform based on syngas. PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1004716107