Natural gas can be found in abundance throughout the United States, and is often used for heating, cooking, and electrical power generation. Natural gas is composed primarily of methane, an energy-rich compound not widely used for transportation. Currently, there are no commercially viable biological approaches to convert methane into liquid fuel, and synthetic approaches are expensive and inefficient at small scales. To take advantage of the country’s remote natural gas resources, such as off-shore methane, new biological processes that use special microorganisms called “biocatalysts” are needed to transform methane into liquid fuel. These small-scale processes could provide an environment advantage since they would be carbon neutral or better relative to traditional fuels.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
LanzaTech will combine methane fermentation expertise, experimental bioreactor characterization, as well as advanced simulation and modeling to develop a novel gas fermentation system that can significantly improve gas to liquid mass transfer, or the rate at which methane gas is delivered to a biocatalyst. This unique bioreactor concept seeks to efficiently transfer methane to microbial biocatalysts by reducing the energy demand required for high transfer rates. Although methane is a flammable gas, the new technology also maintains the safe operation necessary for a small-scale conversion process. This bioreactor design would significantly reduce capital and operating costs, enabling small-scale deployment of fuel production from remote natural gas sources. LanzaTech’s new gas fermentation system could help produce liquid fuel at a cost of less than $2 per gallon of gasoline equivalent.
If successful, LanzaTech’s system will process large amounts of methane at a high rate, reducing the costs associated with methane conversion to enable small-scale deployment of natural gas conversion.
An improved bioconversion process could create cost-competitive liquid fuels significantly reducing demand for foreign oil.
This technology would allow for utilization of small-scale remote natural gas resources or methane and carbon rich gas residues for fuel production reducing harmful emissions associated with conventional fuel technologies.
Expanding U.S. natural gas resources via bioconversion to liquid fuels could contribute tens of billions of dollars to the nation's economy while reducing or stabilizing transport fuel prices.