Auckland-based bio-fuels pioneer Lanzatech has secured more American government funding to explore a "drop-in" fuel replacement for conventional jet fuel.

An announcement from the US Department of Energy overnight says Lanzatech will be eligible for "up to US$4 million to develop a cost-effective technology that converts biomass-derived ethanol into jet fuel using catalysts."

Lanzatech will also produce "a valuable bio-product called butadiene that could be used to improve the overall economics of the fuel production process", with a wider aim to drive down drop-in jet fuel costs.

"Drop-in" bio-fuels are favoured over formulations that require mixing into normally derived petroleum products because they then become true replacements for conventional fuels.


The DoE win is one of three similar "small-scale" projects to be funded up to US$12 million, and comes after Lanzatech picked up a contract with the US Department of Defence's Advanced Research Agency in June to help develop drop-in bio-fuels for military aircraft.

"The projects, funded through DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, seek to accelerate research and development that will lead the way toward affordable, clean alternatives to fossil fuels and diversify our nation's energy portfolio," said US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, in a statement.

"Producing advanced, drop-in biofuels in the US will reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and support development of a new industry that will create jobs in rural communities across the country," said Chu.

Lanzatech's chief executive, Jennifer Holmgren, is based in Illinois, but the company's scientific hub is in Parnell, Auckland.

However, it appears the latest project does not seek to harness proprietary technology developed by Lanzatech to replace bio-mass as a feedstock with industrial waste gases, which has been touted as its main breakthrough to date.

Chu said the funding deals would "further diversify DOE's research and development portfolio in a breadth of fuels and chemicals derived from domestic cellulosic biomass, such as grasses, wood, and agricultural residue."