Indian Oil’s landmark project for fuels+, from refinery waste CO2: The partner? It’s LanzaTech

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In Turkey, at the World Petroleum Congress, India’s flagship national oil company Indian Oil Corporation and carbon recycler LanzaTech unveiled a Statement of Intent to construct the world’s first refinery off gas-to-bioethanol production facility in India.

The basic engineering for the 40 million liter per year demonstration plant will begin by Q4 for installation at IndianOil’s Panipat Refinery in Haryana, India. It will be integrated into existing site infrastructure and will be LanzaTech’s first project capturing refinery off-gases.

Carbon 2.0: value-creation drives conservation

No metals refinery emits waste gold or silver. You never hear of a platinum or diamond waste stream problem. Which shows, in the end, the way forward. Create a value opportunity and you’ll see how fast emissions-reduction complaining turns into CO2 hoarding.

So, what’s most compelling about this announce is that more than 50 percent of the carbon comes from waste CO2 — and that an integrated oil refiner sees value in the waste stream.

Second most compelling feature? It saves the refinery’s carbon for the carbon must-haves — shifting the use of off-gases (hydrogen, carbon monoxide, CO2) from refinery processing away from making low-value power and steam (the energy for which can come from renewable solar, for example). Why use off-gases to make power and steam? Conversely, why not burn the Mona Lisa for its energy value?

There’s carbon in everything we eat, everything we wear, and in everything we currently drive. Even hydrogen or electric cars are lightweighting fast — and that means more carbon and less steel.

As waste carbon acquires value, we’ll see the shift — from power and venting to aviation, large trucks, and and more chemical applications all the time. “It’s not very likely we will make yoga pants out of silicon,” Holmgren wryly observed.

The carbon shift in the Panipat project

The potential impact of using off-gases from the refining sector in India is considerable. India would be able to produce 40-50 kilotonnes per year of ethanol, per refinery, while saving about 1 million metric tons of CO2 per annum. This is the equivalent emissions savings, per refinery, to switching 2.5 million vehicles over to all-electric in California using today’s grid.

Shifting from CO2-as-liability to CO2-as-feedstock

LanzaTech’s first commercial facility converting waste emissions from steel production to ethanol will come online in China in late 2017. But the gas composition in a refinery is much different as the high levels of CO associated with the chemistry of steel production are not there.

So, what’s changed?

As LanzaTech’s Jennifer Holmgren explained to The Digest, “CO has both carbon and energy but CO2 only has carbon and so a form of energy is required.  Fortunately refineries do have H2 so we are good to go. Our bug eats CO2 and uses H2 to get the energy since CO2 has none. Mix a couple of refinery gas streams and you get CO, CO2, H2 and away you go.  In the gas blend we are using with IOC, more than 50% of the carbon in the ethanol comes from CO2.  So we are fixing CO2 in products. Definitely a paradigm shift and for sure now CO2 can become an opportunity feedstock rather than a liability.  If we can start thinking differently, then we can succeed in our battle with CO2.”

The LanzaTech backstory

This year, we expect to see the commissioning of the 16 million gallon first commercial at the Shougang plant in Caofeidan, China. Next year, we’ll see the 21 million gallons second commercial at the ArcelorMittal plant in Ghent, Belgium.

We covered the range of potential products from the technology in E Pluribus, Unum: LanzaTech, Global Bioenergies demonstrate The Biotechnology App Store, here:

E Pluribus, Unum: LanzaTech, Global Bioenergies demonstrate The Biotechnology App Store

In December 2016, we reported that the DOE invested $4 million with LanzaTech to design, construct, and operate an integrated demonstration-scale biorefinery that will use industrial waste gases to produce 3 million gallons per year of low-carbon jet and diesel fuels. LanzaTech and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have already successfully demonstrated their renewable jet fuel production technology.

Lanzatech amongst six projects chosen by DOE for pilot scale biofuel projects

In September 2016, we reported that LanzaTech produced 1,500 US gallons of Lanzanol jet fuel, resulting from the partnership with Virgin Atlantic. The Lanzanol was produced in China at the RSB (Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials) certified Shougang demonstration facility. The innovative alcohol-to-jet (AtJ) process was developed in collaboration with Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL) with support from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and with the help of funding from HSBC. More on that here.

In July 2015 we reported on the ArcelorMittal, LanzaTech and Primetals Technologies project in Ghent, here.

Multi-Slide Guide

The Digest’s 2016 Multi-Slide Guide to LanzaTech’s ATJ jet fuel tech is here.

Becoming a Carbon Superhero: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to LanzaTech is here.

The India backstory

In March, we reported that ethanol’s growth is spelled I-N-D-I-A, here.

India is adopting a cleaner and greener economic growth pathway today, with the Government running one of the largest renewable capacity expansion programs in the world. The implementation of the National Smart Grid Mission, along with new programs for increasing energy capacities from wind and waste conversion, are key elements of this vision. This vision is inextricably linked to the principle of ‘need-based consumption’ which follows the need to maximize on existing resources and decarbonize everyday activities. For liquid fuels, this is highlighted by targets initiated by the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas to increase the supply of ethanol-blended petrol (E10) to all parts of the country.

“India is on track to exceed its Paris commitments,” said India’s Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan. “This is thanks to investment in novel low-carbon technologies such as this project between IndianOil and LanzaTech. It is promising to see carbon turned from a liability into an opportunity, where we can reduce emissions, maximize resources and decarbonize our economy.”

The Indian Oil backstory

In May, we reported that the Haryana state government has approved Indian Oil’s investment proposal for a $93.3 million 100,000 liter per day second-generation ethanol plant using crop waste including 50 acres of free or nearly free land in Panipat to site the facility. The plan is for the plant to be commissioned within the next two years. Back in March, the state government asked the company to submit an investment proposal, promising that it would be considered favorably.

Haryana government agrees to Indian Oil’s 2G ethanol investment plan

Last November, we reported that Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOCL), Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd (HPCL) will invest $586 million in developing seven second-generation ethanol plants to help the government achieve its 22.5% ethanol blending goals. Each facility is planned to produce between 100,000 and 150,000 liters of ethanol per day along with compressed-CNG for use in vehicles.

Indian oil companies to invest $586 million in seven 2G ethanol plants

“Innovation is one of IndianOil’s core values as evidenced by our continued investment in our R&D and engineering teams,” said Mr. Sanjiv Singh, Chairman IndianOil. “Innovation helps us learn and grow and this project at the Panipat Refinery enables us to continue to move forward with our commitment to build a strong sustainable business that demonstrates concern for society and the environment. The biofuels we will be able to produce will support the requirements for motor spirit blends set by the Government of India while enabling IndianOil to add value while reducing its emissions.”

“India is leading a transformational shift which balances industrial growth with the needs of society and the environment,” said Dr Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech. “Changes in the energy paradigm pose a serious challenge for energy companies but IndianOil is taking the challenge as an opportunity. They are leading the next generation of refiners as they diversify India’s energy sources and explore alternative ways to meet the country’s energy needs, sustain economic growth and alleviate energy poverty. We are very proud to be working with IndianOil as it plans the first deployment of LanzaTech technology in one of its major refineries, demonstrating the broad applicability of emissions recycling across industrial sectors, beyond steel.”

The Bottom Line

We’ve been following the India story all throughout the year, but perhaps this is the most exciting element given the technological milestone of directly using CO2 as a feedstock. The timing is uncertain, but the direction is not — CO2’s days as a valueless emission, suitable only for wrangling over pollutants — may be over.

And that’s a long-standing story in energy. Years ago, oil refiners used to throw gasoline into the river, lacking a use for it. It wasn’t the EPA that came along and stoped that — it was technology that unlocked the value.