[Gasification] lanzatech buys closed range fuels plant for , 5.1mil

doug.williams Doug.Williams at orcon.net.nz
Tue Jan 24 13:25:36 CST 2012

Hi Peter and Gasification Colleagues,

Just to clear up a couple of points:

> Range Fuels is yet another example of the strange due diligence process 
> that seems to inform Private and  Government investment.  Who actually 
> ends up with this "lost" money? Wouldn't that be a fascinating and 
> probably enlightening investigation.

Experience say's, it's venture capital driven, with intent to return a profit on the investment by selling shares. 
> What did Lanzatech actually get for their 5.1 million? They clearly 
> don't want the thermo chemical catalyst technology and the gasifier by 
> all accounts is not suited to purpose.  Sounds simply like a strategic 
> move to attract more investment by seeming to take on failed work of others.

One would always hope that new technology might be a silver bullet to opening up new energy futures, but mostly it's about moving money out of one persons pocket, and into another's!
> A little of our own history:  Lanzatech were introduced to us by 
> Bluescope Steel  following a successful charcoal research project we 
> helped on with the steel industry here in Australia. The Chief Research 
> Scientist for Bluescope was aware that we had a working linear hearth 
> gasifier that had been independently validated and which met the 
> necessary criteria for either catalytic or biological conversion of 
> syngas to liquid fuels, and more crucially as a modular system could be 
> assembled into a plant to suit industrial scale. 

For the edification of others outside of Australia, you might want to expand your credibility, by naming your independent consultancy able to validate your system. Just being able to find this type of expertise might be a great help to others. I see you are talking syngas, so you clearly have experience outside of air gasification.

> Lanzatech never 
> responded to us despite this referral, but continued to promote their 
> technology as being game changing despite clearly having only half the 
> equation (who cares about details when a multi billion dollar market is 
> in the offing?).

As you are talking about a time later than my initial involvement, and the marketing arm of the venture capital involved, would be in full swing. The scale of gas making required to support a commercial process like theirs, has to be substantially big, but as you say, who cares about details, so say as little as possible except to push the process?
> The bottled producer gas thing they apparently had Doug do is a 
> nonsense, any competent lab can simulate any tested producer gas ratio's 
> by blending readily available and specified lab gases already in 
> certified high pressure cylinders. 

I would agree, but, as the originator of these microbes was a New Zealander, the venture capital in the USA, saw that the concept had much greater investment appeal if waste biomass was the source of the CO. In part, this was driven by the ridiculous cost of the research grade gases of which you speak to develop the appropriate microbe. As I said previously, just think of all the hassles of collecting steel mill CO emissions in a research phase. This immediately required a gasification process, and they were referred to me for both guidance and as a possible source of CO in producer gas. Besides, there is a history of people in industry helping each other in NZ, and I helped because I could. 

This draws me to your comment about specified gas. Would you like to state a specification that can be considered as a standard to represent producer gas appropriate for specific microbe development? What comes first, the chicken or the egg? How we think about these things certainly colour the end result.

>After compression and storage in a 
> cylinder of "real life"  producer gas any condensates present are hardly 
> going to jump out in subsequent testing through the gas being drawn off 
> in low volumes at the top of the bottle, and in any case the researchers 
> with their microbes are more than likely to do additional filtering when 
> working at lab scales.

Firstly Peter, "real life" producer gas for compression, needs a gas free from condensable hydrocarbons, although water vapour can get through unless removed by a chilling system. They were ignorant about producer gas in every way, and were advised to follow a withdrawal procedure to protect any sensitive measuring equipment. The facts were at that time, was to move it out of the laboratory and set up the larger system, and we were looking at supplying a small gasifier for this need. It was made clear to them, that no larger gasifiers could be supplied to them from our current licensees. Later, I was led to believe that the principle who developed the microbe had health problems, and a shift in management had taken place, and a small gasifier was not supplied.
> If this company was genuine they would have a properly operating 
> gasifier module of at least 200kg/hr  and do their commercialisation 
> work directly from this gas.  That they never took up this offer drops 
> its own red flag.

It's a sad day when any one has to call in venture capital to fund their development work, but that is how things get done today. The bigger the risk, the bigger the return on original investment, but by selling shares of course, not running the process. As long as the money comes back at a profit at each stage of investement transition, nobody cares about the ethics or integrity of the venture. Sad isn't it?
> We were referred to Khosler Ventures by someone else whom we can't 
> remember at the moment, we do however remember Khoslers reply: They were 
> not interested in Biomass technologies but only wanted truly renewable 
> technologies instead....enough said.

It pays to cultivate a good memory, so that events can be retold without variation away from facts. When you follow this advice, there "is" only one story to tell, and elastic sided half truths are exposed for all to see(:-)
> In terms of advanced ethanol catalysts one supplier out of Canada has 
> estimated from an independent gas analysis taken from our gasifier that 
> the two systems in combination could yield 400 litres per tonne of wood 
> chips of industrial alcohols being predominantly ethanol with methanol 
> and some propanol with a few percent butanol thrown in....a yield which 
> the industry road map is aiming to achieve by 2030. 

I'm sure that today you can find anything you want to do is available from "somewhere", but again, if you want credibility for what you offer, then state your independent gas analysis laboratory.  I had to Google Real Power Systems to learn that in your September 11, 2011 Report Presentation, states that your gas averages 6.5 Mj/m3 placing the
gas quality higher than what has been established as producer gas without condensable hydrocarbon. From the flare photos you present, the colour confirms this, along with particulates. Would you like to clarify my incorrect interpretation of the visual phenomena, because it can be very misleading taken out of context? 

They even offered 
> the catalyst to allow independent testing and validation by qualified 
> researchers here in Australia, despite this and a matching offer by 
> ourselves to supply the gasifier being widely disseminated to all likely 
> parties including leading Universities and Australian Government there 
> has been no interest.  

It's certainly a generous offer to supply gasifiers free to researchers, but the Australian report submitted to the IEA Gasification Workshop in Christchurch May 2011, shows that some of these institutions have already identified their priorities regarding biomass research.

The only feed back at all was from the leader of 
> the CSIRO Biofuels Flagship who told me directly that they knew what we 
> had but were not allowed to assist us...since no other explanation was 
> offered we can only assume this was because their core business was 
> doing research, not solutions.

They are there to do work for you and make money to do so, not solve how to make things happen. As for not being allowed to assist you, in what way? It may have been outside of their scope of capability, equipment, staff, or time wise, but it is unlikely anyone would want to be identified as having directed your exclusion from their resources.
Are you game to name who it was so that can be sorted out? Anyway, in part, you are right about no interest in what you do, as it peculates down from your current crop of elected representatives in Government. "Lip service only will be paid to renewables" to satisfy cosmetically, carbon emission obligations, but don't watch the shell game they play with carbon credits.

 > Good luck to them all... Our response is in the company name and the 
> success we are quietly achieving.

Great spirit, but why hide your success quietly? People want successful gasifiers, and this Forum is one place to stand up and be seen if you want to get your systems out there.  Offer up your specifications with explanations of the componentry that can be seen as reliable technology, and it will sell itself. Having said that, you have to expect scrutiny from the International gasification community, and this is best done by displaying working installations, which you seem to have available if your five projects came to completion.  Great work needs proving, so put up some photos which, in this digital age, make it so easy to record progress. 

I think this is a good place to leave Lanzatech to a watching brief, rather than worry about our lack of inclusion to sharing the $$$. Time will reveal all.

Doug Williams
Fluidyne Gasification.

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