Paul Allen’s firm bets on cleantech startup that turns natural gas into chemicals

Siluria Technologies, the San Francisco-based cleantech company that is developing a technology to turn natural gas into transportation fuels and industrial chemicals, announced it has raised $30 million in investment for its third founding round.

With over $63 million in funding poured into Siluria to date, the company is under pressure to bring its product to market. Siluria said in a statement that it will use the funds for two pilot-scale reactors and a commercial plant, in an effort to scale the technology.

On its website, the startup claims to be the first to provide a commercially viable alternative to petroleum or crude oil.

New investors from Bright Capital and Vulcan Capital (Paul Allen’s venture firm) are taking a bet that Siluria will significantly heighten the global demand for natural gas. “Siluria opens new, more lucrative markets for the producers and distributors of natural gas,” said Mikhail Chuchkevich, managing partner at Bright Capital, in a statement.

As Bloomberg Businessweek reported, natural gas is mostly burned as a fuel to generate steam or power and fell to a 10-year low this spring in part due to an expansion of U.S. shale drilling.

Alex Tkachenko, Siluria’s president, told VentureBeat that the company will not suffer if the price of natural gas and oil fluctuates over the coming decades, because the price disparity is so stunning. Gas currently sells for around $3 per million BTUs in North America, while oil sits at around $88 a barrel.

“Even if the price of oil gets cut in half, chemicals made from Siluria’s processes will still be economical compared to their crude oil counterparts,” he said in an email interview.

Siluria’s technology unlocks the potential in natural gas by converting its primary ingredient, Methane, into Ethylene, using a catalytic process. The Ethylene Siluria produces can be converted into transportation fuels, chemicals, or materials such as plastic.

VentureBeat first covered the promising cleantech company back in 2010, on the eve of its first funding round led by Kleiner Perkins.

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