LanzaTech buys Range Fuels site for pennies on the dollar

By Kris Bevill | January 04, 2012

New Zealand-based technology developer LanzaTech became the new owner of the former Range Fuels Inc. cellulosic biofuels plant in Soperton, Ga., on Jan. 3, paying just $5.1 million for the site during a foreclosure sale held in Soperton and facilitated by Range Fuels’ lender, AgSouth Farm Credit.

LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren said the company plans to use the site for a wood residue-to-fuels and chemicals production facility. Extensive renovations will be required before the plant can be operated using LanzaTech's technology and therefore a timeline for start-up was not yet available. AgSouth representatives were unavailable for immediate comment on the results of the sale.

Founded in 2005, LanzaTech is focused on developing technologies that produce low-carbon fuels and chemicals without requiring the use of land resources. While it is capable of utilizing biomass-based waste gases, much of the company’s technology to date has been developed to convert carbon monoxide produced at industrial facilities such as steel mills and petroleum refineries into ethanol and other drop-in fuels and chemicals. In 2010, the company formed a partnership with China-based Baosteel and announced its intent to build a demonstration plant at one of the company’s steel mills. More recently, LanzaTech was awarded $4 million from the U.S. DOE to advance its technology to produce both ethanol and valuable chemicals from biomass-based waste gases stemming from biomass gasification systems at the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. 

LanzaTech’s key investor is Vinod Khosla, who, during a recent visit to New Zealand, referred to LanzaTech as a role model company and said it represents “black swan” ideas—high-impact innovations that are beyond the realm of normal expectations.

Khosla was also a major investor in Range Fuels, which defaulted on its federal loan guarantee in early 2011 after failing to achieve its goal of producing cellulosic biofuels from locally sourced wood at a commercial scale.