'Clean coal' start-up GreatPoint Energy raises $100 million

GreatPoint brings in chemical and energy conglomerates to finance construction of plants that convert coal to natural gas.

GreatPoint Energy, a company with technology that converts coal to natural gas, has secured $100 million to finance construction of commercial plants.

The third round of funding, first reported by CNET News.com, was led by new investors Dow Chemical, Suncor Energy, AES, and Citi division Sustainable Development Investments, Daniel Goldman, the executive vice president and chief financial officer of the Cambridge, Mass.-based company, said on Friday.

GreatPoint uses a proprietary catalyst that converts coal and other carbon-based materials into methane, the primary component of natural gas. Through its process, it says that it can make its natural gas, called Bluegas, at about $4 per million BTUs (British thermal units), lower than the current market price of nearly $7 per million BTUs.

The natural gas will be transported through existing natural gas pipelines.

The company now has a test facility using coal in Des Plaines, Ill., and intends to use petroleum coke from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada as a feedstock to make methane.

With the financing, the company plans to build a large demonstration plant and begin construction of a large-scale manufacturing facility over the next few years.

"There are some natural synergies between all the (investor) companies either for power generation or for treating waste products from the tar sands in Canada," Goldman said.

The company's initial investors, which participated in the financing round, were venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Khosla Ventures, Advanced Technology Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. In its first two rounds of funding, it raised $37 million.

GreatPoint Energy intends to construct methane plants near coal-mining areas and to take the carbon dioxide--a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming--created through its gasification process and sequester it underground. Or, the carbon dioxide can be used to aid oil and natural gas exploration.

 

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