Clean technology pioneer LanzaTech wants to clean up the world’s toxic belching factories one smokestack at a time.
And the venture capitalists are listening.
The Roseville, Ill-based company snared $60 million in venture funding Tuesday.
LanzaTech’s gas fermentation technology converts toxic carbon monoxide and dioxide emissions into renewable ethanol and butadiene that can be used for the production of nylon, rubber, and other plastics on site at the chemical spewing factories themselves. This is a huge leap because companies previously had to ship their waste to third-party sites for conversion, a very expensive and time-consuming endeavor.
Mitsui & Co LTD led the round along with a formidable list of global investors. Khosla Ventures general partner Andrew Chung also participated. To date, the company has raised $150 million in five rounds of funding.
Chung said LanzaTech’s conversion technology has “huge implications” for helping to rid the world of dangerous toxins polluting the air. Depending on who you talk to, it may also help staunch the rise in greenhouse gasses being released into the atmosphere.
“This has the potential to eliminate the world’s smokestacks. What LanzaTech is able to do is convert smoke from gas- and coal-fired plants into valuable chemicals and fuels on site. LanzaTech accomplishes two things: one, ridding the world of toxic gasses, and two, creating renewable fuel economically,” Chung said.
And it appears LanzaTech had to fight off the investors during the series D funding initiative.
“There is,” Chung said, such “a significant amount of interest that (LanzaTech) is considering expanding the round.”
Chung demurred when asked how much of the $60 million was theres. He pointed out that Khosla Ventures was heavily involved in the seed round and thus owns a majority of the company.
LanzaTech was founded in New Zealand but is now headquartered in Illinois. It has already signed a contract with Bao Steel in China, whose 24 factories near Shanghai alone blanket the enormous metropolis in a toxic stew of chemicals day and night. Chung said his research indicated that 700,000 people die each year in China from pollution-related ailments.
China is one of the most industrialized but polluted countries in the world. Public and political pressure on the Chinese government in Shanghai helped push Bao Steel to look for solutions. Chung said another value proposition to his investment, and LanzaTech, is that Bao Steel and others using the technology can now recycle those toxins at the very same facility where they are produced.
That means no more costly and dangerous shipping by rail, freighter and tanker trucks or storing the waste underground to further pollute the environment. The technology has also sparked interest in Russia and India, two nations well known for their undesirable environmental track records. Chung said the governments of Western Europe are also keenly interested in the technology.
LanzaTech is unique for another reason: it is one of the few technologies built within the confines of the factory itself. The need for outsourcing is eliminated, Chung said.
“To the question of why should we care? To have companies like this scale without spending equity on building a plant is critical,” Chung said.