Siluria has raised the funds it needs to build a demonstration plant for making the chemical ethylene from natural gas, rather than oil.
The MIT spin-off announced yesterday that it has raised $30 million in a round led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Vulcan Capital and Moscow, Russia-based Bright Capital. Existing venture capital investors, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, also participated, bringing the total the company has raised to $63.3 million.
The company has developed a method for turning methane, the main component of natural gas, into ethylene, a common industrial chemical normally derived from oil. Ethylene is used in the production of many everyday products, such as the plastic, and could be converted into liquid fuel.
Typically, refiners "crack" petroleum with heat to produce ethylene, a smaller chain hydrocarbon. Siluria instead uses catalysts to chemically combine two methane molecules to make ethylene, a process which can operate at much lower temperatures and is far less energy-intensive than traditional steam cracking.