cleantech insights

Laurus Energy finds clean coal solution?

Emma Ritch

Houston, Texas-based Laurus Energy says it has the technology to cheaply convert North America’s biggest asset into energy.

Three-year-old Laurus came out of stealth mode this week, announcing it raised $8.5 million from Mohr Davidow Ventures in April to build a business around underground coal gasification (UCG) technology licensed from Ergo Exergy Technologies.

Laurus Energy’s exclusive rights for the North American market give it access to technology already in use in South Africa, India and Australia—technology unlike any other being used to produce a natural gas equivalent, said Erik Straser, general partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures and a board member at Laurus.

The process is cheaper and cleaner than current coal gasification techniques, with the added benefit of beng a proven technology, he said.

Montréal, Canada.-based Ergo’s proprietary process addresses how to site, start, manage and complete projects. The UCG process injects air into underground seams before igniting it, which burns the coal and produces syngas. Using existing technology, carbon dioxide can then be sequestered from the gas, leaving hydrogen, methane and hydrocarbons that burn cleanly in power plants, Straser said.

The UCG process leaves many of the contaminants from typical mining operations underground, preventing their release in the atmosphere. …


Are government subsidies going to save recycling?

Emma Ritch

The value of materials recovered in the recycling process is plummeting alongside oil and other commodities.

Since favorable economics are credited with driving the recycling push of recent years (as opposed to eco-conscious consumers), the future of recycling is now in question.

The New York Times reports that the price of tin is down from $327 a ton earlier this year to about $5. Mixed paper is down from $100 a ton to $20 to $25. Glass is an exception, with prices remaining steady.

Prices are dropping because there’s no longer a demand for recycled materials as the largest customer, China, has pulled back. Some collectors are stockpiling the recyclables until prices go back up, while others are refusing to accept more plastic and paper. Some are even beginning to charge to accept materials that they previously paid to obtain.

A new report last week showed that recycling paper and plastic consumes more energy and resources than it saves (see Report calls recycling a waste of energy). Metals were considered an exception to the findings, which suggested trash was better served as a fuel source for waste-to-energy plants.

So what does this mean for the businesses that have popped …