Carbon gas has also becomes a problem when more greenhouse gases (GHGs) like carbon dioxide (CO2) are being emitted into the air than the planet can cycle back out. It’s this imbalance in the flow of carbon into and out of the air that is driving CO2 concentrations ever higher, fuelling a warming climate and more acidic oceans.
Although energy can be carbon free, liquid fuels and chemicals contain carbon. So the big challenge for the air industry is to create fuels for aircraft with much lower carbon footprints. To do this, we need to start working out how to recycle carbon more effectively.
LanzaTech was founded to take advantage of microbial organisms which can take certain carbon-based emissions and use them as a ‘raw material’ for producing sustainable biofuels.
According to LanzaTech official website they stated "at LanzaTech we think of waste carbon as an opportunity instead of a liability. The technology we’re developing is producing low-cost energy from regional wastes and residues"
LanzaTech teamed up with Virgin Atlantic and have been working on an alternative fuel source for Sir Richard Branson's flagship airline since 2011.
And this week, the two companies announced a breakthrough that could drastically reduce the airline industry's carbon emissions. LanzaTech mentioned that they have successfully produced 1,500 US gallons of jet fuel derived from the industrial gases given off by steel mills.
The LanzaTech fuel was created by capturing these gases, which would have otherwise been dispersed into the atmosphere, and converting them to a low-carbon ethanol called "Lanzanol" through a fermentation process. As theNew Zealand Herald reports, the Lanzanol was produced in China at the Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials-certified demonstration center in Shougang and then converted to jet fuel using a process developed alongside the Pacific Northwest National Lab and the US Department of Energy.
While initial tests show the Lanzanol fuel could result is as much as 65 percent less carbon emission than conventional jet fuel, it will need to pass a few more tests before it can be used in an commercial setting. Still, Branson believes Virgin Atlantic could make a Lanzanol-powered "proving flight" as early as 2017.
According to LanzaTech, with this new breakthrough they could implement their technology at 65 percent of the world's steel mills, allowing the company to produce 30 billion gallons of Lanzanol annually.
This would be enough to create 15 billion gallons of cleaner-burning jet fuel and replace about one-fifth of all the aviation fuel used yearly worldwide.