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Microbes convert stack gases to fuels and chemicals

By Gerald Parkinson |

A demonstration plant for a biological process that produces ethanol and 2,3 butanediol (2,3-BD) from the offgases of industrial plants will be started up in the third quarter of 2011 at a steel mill operated by Bao Steel (Shanghai). Developed by LanzaTech (Auckland, New Zealand; www.lanzatech.co.nz), the process will produce about 100,000 gal/yr of ethanol from a slipstream of stack gases, says Mike Schultz, the company’s director of process development. He adds that negotiations are under way with Bao for a 50-million-gal/yr commercial plant that would start up toward the end of 2012. LanzaTech’s process (flowsheet) converts carbon monoxide to ethanol by means of a specially cultivated strain of the Clostridium bacterium. The steel mill’s waste gases mainly consist of CO, plus some H2, CO2, CH4 and O2. Particulate matter is filtered from the gases, then the O2 is removed catalytically, since the bacterium is anaerobic. The rest of the gas mixture is sparged into the aqueous solution of bacteria and converted to ethanol in a continuous process, at 35–40°C. Hydrogen (needed for the process) is generated via a biological, water-gas-shift reaction, although if H2 is present in the gas stream this reaction…
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