Siluria Technologies raises $30M in Series C to commercialize its OCM process for converting natural gas into commodity chemicals and transportation fuels
Siluria Technologies, a startup developing novel catalysts for the oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) reaction to produce ethylene (C2H4) directly from methane (CH4) with high performance at low temperatures (earlier post), has closed its Series C financing, raising $30 million. Ethylene is a highly flexible chemical intermediate that can be converted to lower-cost fuels, chemicals, and materials.The company had closed a $20-million Series B in September 2011. (Earlier post.)
New investors Bright Capital and Vulcan Capital led the round. All of the company’s existing investors—ARCH Venture Partners, The Wellcome Trust, Alloy Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Lux Capital, Altitude Life Science Ventures and Presidio Ventures—participated in the round. The Series C financing will help fund the construction of a commercial demonstration the plant and support the commercialization of the company’s technology. To date, Siluria has raised $63.3 million.
OCM converts methane into ethane and ethylene (C2 hydrocarbons). Since the discovery of the reaction in the 1980s, researchers have looked for a commercially viable OCM catalyst, but have been largely unsuccessful. Methane is thermodynamically very stable, making activation difficult. Current catalysts exhibit either high selectivity coupled with low conversion or high conversion with low selectivity.
Siluria’s catalyst synthesis process uses proteins on the surface of a genetically modified bacteriophage as nucleation sites for growing nanoscale wires of catalyst material. By growing the catalyst nanowires on an engineered biological template, Siluria is able to access crystal structures and surface morphologies not formed through conventional crystallization of the material. The novel crystal structures, in turn, give rise to catalyst active sites with unique properties that are critical to achieve the selectivity and yield required for an economically viable OCM process.
Siluria says its process is fully scalable and uses commercially available equipment. Siluria has already built two functional pilot-scale reactors based around its technology that convert methane into higher-value chemicals and will start work on the commercial demonstration facility next year.
Fuels and chemicals manufactured via Siluria’s process and natural gas are indistinguishable from products made today from oil. The difference is cost. On energy-equivalent basis, natural gas is currently more than four to five times less expensive than oil in North America and nearly half the price of oil in Europe, where far less natural gas is produced, according to the BP Statistical Review of Energy. By leveraging the abundance and wide availability of natural gas, Siluria’s technology lowers the expense of producing fuels and chemicals.