“The technologies that are being worked on as theyre scaled and commercialised really have the ability to not just change markets but to also help emerging markets, making a meaningful contribution to climate change.”
LanzaTech develops and is commercialising a gas fermentation process using microbes that converts gases such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide into fuels and chemicals. With offices in the US, China and India, and also operating in countries including South Africa and Japan, the company has a worldwide reachand is committed to developing productsthat could soon usurp fossil-based alternatives.
Carl Wolf, LanzaTechs Europe vice president, gives some insight into that commitment for this weeks 5 Minutes With In his role, Carl looks after existing projects and project development and handles governmental and regulatory issues in Brussels and across Europe. He explains to Dave Songer the influence LanzaTech could have over the bio industry, the importance of making mistakes and why hes looking forward to this years World Bio Markets show in Amsterdam.
Dave Songer (DS): Great to meet you, Carl. Can I begin by asking what you like most about working in the bio-based industry?
Carl Wolf (CW): I would say the innovation that accompanies the work and the ability to work on a lot of different projects and technologies. Working at LanzaTech(@LanzaTech) I get to see first hand how fast the industry is evolving, it keeps you on your toes and is a lot of fun. There are also a lot of characters working in the industry, with a lot of people working on different technologies and to different business models.
The reason were all doing this is to make a positive impact. The technologies that are being worked on as theyre scaled up and commercialised really have the ability to not just change markets but to also help emerging markets, making a meaningful contribution to climate change.
(DS): Whats been your biggest professional challenge?
(CW): I think the challenge with developing and commercialising new technology is that it really takes a long time, money and patience to do it and do it right. The ability to see things through, to see past quick wins and to stay on course long term has been challenging, but as you do it and start to get close to the end goals it gets even more rewarding.
(DS): Youve worked in the bio-based industry your whole career, whats been the biggest change youve seen in that time?
(CW): Were now as an industry starting to get beyond the different ways biofuels and bio-chemicals were thought about, and now are thinking about the overall environmental impacts that technology is having and how we can influence existing industries and help lower carbon footprints. So I would say whats really changed is technology and the approaches in terms of whether we can leverage existing resources in terms of feedstocks. Theres also been a big change relating to business models: a lot of companies starting out years ago tried to do it themselves whereas now youre seeing a lot more collaboration and partnerships. As with any new industry, as it evolves it finds its way along the learning curve.
(DS): What advice would you give someone looking to get started in the industry?
(CW): Be open to new experiences. Its achallenging yet rewarding space to be in where you can have experience with technology and new business models and really be at the forefront of innovation, so I would say just be open and be willing to make mistakes. Whenever youre getting into an early stage or a newer field mistakes are bound to happen and its something that youre just going to have to learn from but dont let it stop you from moving forward. You have to be willing to take risks; its almost like becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.
(DS): Whats LanzaTechs business focus for 2018?
(CW): Its an exciting year for LanzaTech. Were planning the start-up of our first commercial facility with Shougang Group in China and are moving forward with various commercial projects that we have in areas such as Belgium, on a steel project for ArcelorMittal; India, for Indian Oil Corporation using refinery off-gas; and South Africa for Swayana on a project using ferro alloy. Were also working on a municipal solid waste project in Japan with Sekisui and a biomass project in the United States with Aemetis so, all over the world.
We have lot of different feedstocks were utilising, diversifying beyond fuels but also moving into other chemicals that we can produce through our microbial process. Its all about pushing towards commercialisation while always expanding the pipeline of feedstocks that we can use and the products we can make.
(DS): Youre due to speak at this years World Bio Markets in Amsterdam what do you most looking forward to at the show?
(CW): Im always interested in the different talks people give and Im always keen to reconnect with industry colleagues and meet new people to hear about new technology and companies that are starting to evolve. Its exciting to be there because you can get a feel and a pulse for the industry, where people are at and what are all the moving parts. You also get a good range of companies whether its big oil companies or smaller companies that are still in the development stage along with a rounded group of participants and audience members.
(DS): And finally then, what your favourite bio-based product and why?
(CW): Well weve done biofuels and weve done certain bio products, such as bio-plastic bottles, but what Im really looking forward to is when you can go into a store and pick out everyday products from toys to cosmetics, or even food, and have a better idea of the ingredients andwhether its fossil-based or bio-based.
Being able to make bio-based decisions that dont impact your wallet would be great. Were getting there, and I think were getting close as new technology is scaled up. Weve proven we can do that: we can make the chemical things that we currently make from fossil fuels and we can do that through bio routes. Biology is amazing in that respect, its just a matter of optimising it and scaling it and getting those costs down to where end users will easily make the choice to go with them.
(DS):Great to have spoken with you, Carl. Thanks for your time see you at the show.
To meet the businesses and brands investing in bio-based solutions, and to see the products set to make their mark in the bio industry, visitWorld Bio Marketsin Amsterdam on 20-22 March, 2018. A copy of the event brochure can be downloadedhere.
Read the last 5 minutes with Greg Bafalis, CEO of Aries Clean Energy.
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