2015 SunGrant Regional Conference – Plenary Session

Dr. Derek Griffin

(LanzaTech) Carbon Recycling: Gas Fermentation for Fuel and Chemical Production

World energy demand is expected to increase by up to 40% by 2030.  Over this time frame, the global population is also anticipated to increase by approximately one billion to a total of 8 billion people. A critical challenge facing the global community is to not only increase our energy resources, but to also minimize fossil carbon emissions and safeguard the environment while ensuring that food production and supply is not detrimentally impacted.   In this regard, renewable sources of transport fuels are of increasing importance.  To address carbon emissions from this sector, governments have mandated the increased use of renewable transport fuels. Similarly, as a result of consumer driven demand, the global market for more environmentally sustainable alternatives to today’s fossil-derived chemicals is anticipated to exceed $100 billion by 2020. The production of biofuels and platform chemicals via gas fermentation is a rapidly developing technology for the sustainable production of fuels and chemicals that does not require food-based substrates as a feedstock. LanzaTech has developed and scaled a complete process platform to allow the continuous biological production of fuels and an array of chemical intermediates from industrial waste gases at pre-commercial scale. To date, this technology has been successfully demonstrated with such diverse gas streams such as by-product gases from steel making and syngas produced from gasified biomass and gasified municipal solid waste. LanzaTech has developed and scaled a proprietary strain of an acetogenic clostridium that is used in combination with a novel reactor design and optimized process chemistry in order to ensure efficient, single-pass gas conversion with a high selectivity to the product of interest. In order to maximise the value that can be added to the array of gas resources that the LanzaTech process can use as an input, the company has developed a robust genetic toolbox to allow the carbon and energy consumed by its proprietary gas fermenting microbe to be channelled into a spectrum of valuable chemicals. Gas fermentation offers an efficient route to add much greater value to gas streams than established technologies, while also reducing greenhouse emissions and providing a strategically important alternative to food or farmed resources for domestic production of sustainable fuels and chemicals at an impactful scale.

Derek Griffin is a Senior Development Engineer with LanzaTech; a biofuel company with a novel gas fermentation technology that converts industrial gases to fuel and chemicals. Derek earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of California and his Bachelors in Chemical from University of Massachusetts. His role is focused on the design and scale-up of LanzaTech’s proprietary gas fermentation process and is currently acting Site Manager at LanzaTech’s Freedom Pines Biorefinery. Dr. Griffin was previously with Eli Lilly pharmaceuticals focused on the design and scale-up of continuous crystallization systems.

Dr. Kelly Tiller

(Genera Energy Inc.) Surf’s Up! The Academic’s Guide to Surfing the Bioeconomy Wave

Surfer great Laird Hamilton characterized his sport as one of the few where you look ahead of you to see what’s behind you. As the waves in our progression toward a bio-based economy gather momentum, the biomass feedstock sector better be looking ahead and preparing. How close are we to being commercial ready? Commercial readiness is not an academic question; it’s a question of scale, capitalization and efficiency. From her vantage point in the trenches—leading a company at the forefront of commercial energy crop production, harvesting, transportation, storage and milling—Dr. Tiller offers her perspectives on the biomass sector’s challenges and opportunities ahead. And as someone who spent 15 years in academia before taking the entrepreneurial plunge, Dr. Tiller also offers her perspectives on the role of academia in commercial readiness and success. Style and skill can mean the difference between excitement and success versus fear and disaster for academics and research institutions surfing the Bioeconomy Wave.

Kelly Tiller spent 15 years leading active programs in agricultural policy and energy economics at the University of Tennessee, where she also received her Ph.D. in agricultural economics. Engineering a $70.5 million biofuels investment from the State of Tennessee in 2007, Dr. Tiller founded Genera Energy in 2008 to execute UT’s unprecedented Biofuels Initiative, achieving establishment of the country’s largest energy crop acreage, a partnership with DuPont to construct and operate one of the country’s first cellulosic ethanol biorefineries, and development of a unique commercial-scale research campus focused on the biomass supply chain. She left the university in 2012 to re-form Genera as a privately held biomass supply company and has led Genera to become the country’s most recognized turn-key commercial biomass feedstock supplier. Focus on innovation and sustainability in delivering industrial biomass supply systems has earned Genera the World Biofuels Market’s prestigious 2013 Sustainable Feedstock Innovation Award and ranking among the Biofuels Digest’s Top 40 Small Companies in the Bioeconomy. She is widely recognized as an industry expert, having been called on more than a half dozen times to testify before Congress and receiving recognitions for her contributions in science, leadership, and her community.

Dr. Mark Windham

(University of Tennessee) The Southeastern Conference: Its Roots and Traditions

In the late 1800’s the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association was formed to regulate athletic teams in the southern U.S (especially baseball).  Approximately 25 years later, the Southern Conference was formed by members who would one day be part of the SEC.  Technological advances such as filming games and radio divided the conference because of philosophical differences on how to use these technologies.  Thirteen schools met in Knoxville, TN 1in 1932 and formed the Southeastern Conference.  Three charter member schools left the conference between 1940 and 1968.  Two left for financial reasons and the other left because the coach felt his school was being treated unfairly.  Two recent expansions, 1991 and 2012, increased the number to of members to 14.  The presentation will look at why these conferences formed and how traditions of each of the 14 member schools began.  Don’t come to hear the seminar unless you are prepared to laugh and laugh hard.  Hint: you don’t have to be a football fan.