Saudi Aramco invests $30 million in methane-to-gasoline startup

HOUSTON — Siluria Technologies, a San Francisco-based startup that is developing technology to convert methane into ethylene and gasoline, said Wednesday it has received a $30 million investment from the venture capital arm of Saudi Aramco.

Siluria, led by former LyondellBasell Chief Operating Officer Ed Dineen, says it has developed a catalyst that makes it possible to convert methane to ethylene using a process called “oxidative coupling.”

It’s received just under $100 million of investment to date, Dineen said.

Energy companies pursued the  process in the 1980s but  largely abandoned it in favor of a different gas-to-liquids technology called Fischer–Tropsch.

But Dineen said Siluria’s technique is many times more efficient than Fischer–Tropsch and was the result of screening more than 75,000 different catalysts before identifying the best one. He called the discovery of that catalyst the “holy grail” of gas-to-liquid technology.

In an interview with FuelFix, Dineen  said the company is poised to launch the first commercially viable use of the process by 2017 or 2018.

If that happens, the implications could be significant, he said, and may allow energy companies to find a profitable use for natural gas that otherwise might be flared or stranded.

Meanwhile, Siluria has major plans for the Houston area. In November or December, Dineen said, Siluria will install a demonstration unit to show the viability of its technology at a La Porte facility owned and operated by Braskem America Inc., a major petrochemical company.