Green

Soros pushes Powerspan to $50M for carbon capture

A group of investors, including George Soros, has funneled $50 million into Powerspan, a company that devises ways to remove carbon dioxide from coal plant emissions. The Portsmouth, N.H.-based company says it will use the new money to set up its system at a utility-scale demo plant in Ohio.

Already, Powerspan is implementing its ammonia-based technology at a 120-megawatt demo plant that is slated to be operational by 2012. The company claims it will catch and sequester more than a million metric tons of carbon dioxide at this facility every year.

The processes used to remove carbon dioxide from emissions are extremely expensive — and in this case, capital-intensive. In order to make installation possible, companies involved in carbon sequestration are almost always forced to depend on both venture and government sources of support. That’s why most world governments offer tax credits and other incentives to encourage utilities to adopt this type of technology.

In the U.S., the recent economic stimulus bill has allocated $3.4 billion for research on carbon-based fuels like coal. The Department of Energy is also offering loans to companies looking to commercialize products that clean up these fuel sources. Powerspan says it plans to apply for both the federal grants and loans. And when the time comes to garner DOE support, the company is ahead of the game, having already worked with one of its labs to refine the carbon-capture systems it plans to market.

Powerspan also has the advantage of having friends in high places. George Soros is a name to be reckoned with, certainly. Tenaska Energy, AllianceBernstein, Persimmon Tree Capital, NGEN Partners, Beacon Group, Tremont Group, RockPort Capital Partners, Calvert, Angeleno Group, Fluor Corp. and FirstEnergy also participated in the recent round of financing. Carbon sequestration is one area of cleantech that is just beginning to grow — and considering how hard any money is to come by in the sector these days, $50 million is a pretty impressive head start.

Here’s a mini diagram of how Powerspan’s technology, ECO2, works:

Image from powerspan.com