Back on the Horse

Failed Range Fuels plant under evaluation by new owner LanzaTech
By Holly Jessen | February 22, 2012

There’s activity again at the biorefinery in Soperton, Ga. LanzaTech  purchased the former Range Fuels plant Jan. 3, renaming it the Freedom Pines Biorefinery, although it wasn’t yet ready in late January to say when the plant might begin producing ethanol. “That’s exactly what company engineers are looking at right now,” spokesperson John Williams says. “They are doing a thorough review of the existing assets and determining the integration pathway. This process is expected to take a few months.”

The plant has sat idle since early last year and will need extensive renovations. Just as was planned originally, LanzaTech will utilize the facility to produce ethanol from wood. “We plan to leverage some of the existing technology at the facility alongside our own proprietary technology to produce clean, renewable and domestic fuels and chemicals from the bountiful waste biomass in the region,” the company said in a press release. LanzaTech’s technology converts gases from biomass or waste industrial gases into ethanol and chemicals.

On Jan. 23, LanzaTech announced it had closed on Series C funding with total new investments of $55.8 million that will help advance the Freedom Pines and other Lanza-Tech projects, Williams says. To date, it has raised more than $85 million. Although the company isn’t saying exactly how the money will be spent, at least part of it will be used to further develop its core gas fermentation technology, including the company’s pilot facility in New Zealand and the Freedom Pines site. “It is too early to project our investment, but given that Freedom Pines is a project 100 percent under our control, we consider it a key, strategic asset for us,” he says. “We will allocate funds accordingly.”

The purchase of the Soperton facility isn’t the only good news story in Georgia. The only other existing ethanol plant in the state, Southwest Georgia Ethanol LLC, emerged from bankruptcy in early January after operating as a debtor-in-possession for nearly a year. The 100 MMgy corn-ethanol plant is located in Camilla, about 150 miles from the Freedom Pines plant. —Holly Jessen