cleantech insights

As Goes LanzaTech, so Goes Cleantech

Greg Neichin

If you are in the cleantech sector and had not previously heard about Lanzatech, you likely have now.  The company raised a big, $55.8M round last week that has been widely applauded and covered.  Students of the company had seen this coming for awhile.  Lanzatech was the highest ranking company in the Asia Pacific region in our Cleantech 100 survey earning it “APAC Company of the Year” at our gala banquet last year.  It was featured as part of GTM’s Trendspotting post on the Top 12 Greentech Startups to Watch in 2012.   We’ve made Lanzatech our featured “Company of the Week” in i3 this week, but it may just turn out to be cleantech’s company of the year (and its only January!).  Here are the top reasons that I think Lanzatech exemplifies a number of key themes happening in cleantech:

1.) Cross-Border Financings – I have previously written about Chinese and Korean investors taking large stakes in Western cleantech companies.  Now we can add the Malaysians to that list.  The round was led by the Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund and included participation from Malaysian state oil company, Petronas.  With the US venture community still experiencing …


On site: BlackGold Biofuels in action

Kate McArdle

Last week, I went with a few of my colleagues to visit San Francisco’s Water Pollution Control Plant, where one of the Entrepreneur Showcase presenting companies, BlackGold Biofuels, has a facility that turns sewer grease into biofuel. The grease found in sewers is a big concern for utilities, and San Francisco alone estimates it spends $50 million/year on costs associated with sewer grease. BlackGold’s system not only alleviates the grease problem, it turns it into a profitable product.

Over at the plant, Emily Landsburg, BlackGold’s CEO, and Alexandre Miot, a Process Engineer at the plant, gave us a tour of BlackGold’s setup, which is the first commercial facility of its kind in the U.S.

On stage in New York: Climax Global Energy

Lisa Sibley

This week’s Pitch o’ the Week company, Climax Global Energy, is a presenting company in the Entrepreneur Showcase at the Cleantech Group’s New York Forum, going on through today. The Entrepreneur Showcase provides capital-seeking cleantech innovators with 10 minutes to pitch top cleantech investors, financiers and corporate buyers.

The Fairfax, S.C.-based company coverts landfill-bound plastics into high value synthetic oil for the clean diesel, syn-lube and wax markets with its patented microwave-assisted pyrolysis process. There is about a $5 billion to $6 billion lube market opportunity in the United States alone, and a $3 billion wax market, according to CEO John Griffith.

Its pyrolysis process essentially cuts plastics (which are long chain polymers) into shorter chain polymers to make synthetic oil. Pyrolysis is a process in which a substance is heated in the absence of oxygen and typically occurs under pressure and at operating temperatures of more than 430°C (800°F), although Climax’s process runs near atmospheric pressure.

The company has a commercial-scale prototype in South Carolina with a 3-ton/day capacity, with plans to start construction of its next reactor train this year at the same location. Additional locations are to follow in South Carolina, New Jersey and other …

Top-10 drivers of cleantech investment in India

Guest Analysts Shawn Lesser and Prashant Maniar

India is the 5th largest power generator in the world and is projected to be the 3rd largest by 2030. Its peak power deficit already stands at 12.6% and is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. The World Bank has predicted that 60% of India’s aquifers will be in critical condition in 15 years time.

For India, continuing its growth momentum while sustaining a healthy environment is a critical imperative. Cleantech can help ensure that these two goals are met.

1. India’s coal tax could raise $650 million for cleantech innovation – As of 1 July 2010, the Indian government began levying a tax of Rs 50 (~$1.1) on every tonne of coal mined in the country as well as that imported from abroad. The tax has the potential of raising $650 million in revenues which will be put towards a “Clean Energy Fund” for the research, development and deployment of renewable energy technologies.

2. Hydro is flowing strong - Hydro electric power generation accounts for 23% of India’s power generation capacity. Moreover, there is currently 46 GW of hydro capacity either completed or under development. Interestingly, only 3.5% of completed projects have been developed by the private sector. …

Blue ocean market opportunities in waste plastic to fuel

Lisa Sibley

Today, more than 90 percent of global waste plastic winds up in landfills, sits on barges in the middle of the ocean, or is incinerated. The remainder is recycled in some form, a substantial portion of which is exported to countries such as China.

But this is expected to change as the waste-to-energy and nascent waste plastics-to-fuel/energy market specifically is poised to take off in the next 12 to 24 months, especially in the U.S. With governments trying to manage land use issues and oil and energy prices predicted to rise, regulation is driving this largely underserved “blue ocean” market. And everyone from large corporations and oil refiners to venture capitalists and entrepreneurs want a piece of the pie.

Other drivers include directives in Europe aimed at shutting down landfills and incentives such as H.R. 3592, the Plastics Recycling Act of 2009 in the U.S. Opportunities lie in converting waste plastics into energy, and specifically into liquids, synthetic crude oil, transportation fuels and industrial petrochemicals. There is a $5 billion to $6 billion lube market opportunity in the U.S., and a $3 billion wax market.

There are a number of technologies to address the market, ranging from liquefaction to …

Waste-to-fuel firm addressing major market opportunity

Lisa Sibley

Tigard, Ore.-based Agilyx Corp., formerly known as Plas2Fuel Corp., has raised approximately $8.5 million to date and is currently seeking Series B funding of up to $10 million.

As this week’s Pitch o’ the Week company, Agilyx has already raised $2.1 million in convertible debt. Existing investors in the company include Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, Saffron Hill Ventures, and Reference Capital.

Agilyx CEO Chris Ulum told the Cleantech Group the private alternative energy company uses what it says is proven, commercially viable modular technology to convert difficult-to-recycle waste plastics, which typically end up in landfills, into synthetic crude oil and other valuable petrochemical products through a process that is scalable, versatile and environmentally friendly.

The company has been manufacturing and selling synthetic crude oil for about two years, deploying its first commercial system in 2008 in Tigard. The facility has a capacity of around 20,000 pounds per day of waste plastic, or the equivalent of about 55 barrels per day of oil, Ulum said.

Agilyx uses its patent pending process to “decompose” plastics back into hydrocarbons while separating undesirable organics (chlorine, bromine, etc.) entrained in the plastic, using what is known as “a continuous batch process.”…

UK opportunities abound in mixed, bio-based plastics recycling

Lisa Sibley

A new report out this month from Banbury, UK-based Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) snagged my attention today, offering updated insights into the UK market for recovered plastics.

According to the report, the UK continues to be dependent on export markets for recycling its recovered plastics. More than 700,000 tons of recovered plastics were exported last year for recycling, primarily to China (accessed via Hong Kong), with about two-thirds being packaging.

In 2009, about 900,000 tons of plastic was collected for recycling, including 590,000 tons of plastic packaging. The rate of plastic bottle recycling is now at more than 40 percent in the UK, with attention going to collecting and developing infrastructure to recycle mixed packaging plastics, the report suggests.

Mixed plastics are non-bottle plastic packaging from household waste streams, such as plastic trays and films. The UK’s first mixed plastic reprocessing facility is expected to launch in 2011, and this appears to be an area for potential growth.

Another UK market that’s still in its infancy also caught my eye: bio-based plastics, or plastics that come from crop or non-oil sources. Volumes are currently too low to make the recovery of such plastics economical, the report points …

Spotlight: MVR takes on recycled plastic resins in Kentucky

Lisa Sibley

Boca Raton, Fla.-based Mountain Valley Recycling (MVR) said today it dedicated a new 90 million pound per year recycled plastic resin manufacturing facility in Frankfort, Ky. The company manufactures high performance sustainable plastic resins.

MVR’s $9.2 million investment in the equipment and the 220,000-square-foot facility, previously home to an auto parts manufacturer, is expected to help boost the local economy and job market with 360 new hires. The company is backed by two private equity firms HG Global Equity and Boca Raton-based Laser Partners.

MVR specializes in re-engineered sustainable resins that can be customized for use in a variety of applications, including for consumer product manufacturers that are “trying to get ahead of the green curve,” MVR CEO Ron Whaley told the Cleantech Group today. The Cleantech Group offers research analysis and insight in the areas of waste and recycling. MVR says the carbon footprint of its resin is 70 percent less than that of a virgin resin.

Whaley said this is the first model facility for the 7-year-old company in the U.S., though it had a smaller facility in Tennessee focused on traditional recycling. The company is looking to bring “a cookie cutter approach” with the Kentucky facility to …

Kedco raises new funds for Northern Ireland gasification plant, seeks partners

Lisa Sibley

UK-based Kedco (LON: KED) informed the Cleantech Group it has raised €3.2 million ($4 million) from London independent investment company Cornhill Capital and a private client network along with two directors.

Kedco CEO Donal Buckley said the funding comes in the form of a Private Investment in Public Equity or PIPE structure to enable the company to develop an efficient 4 megawatt gasification project in Northern Ireland being commissioned in 2Q 2010.

“It turns on our first major electrical generation plant, which will have the effect of re-evaluating the pipelines,” he said. The company has 29 projects in various stages of development totaling more than 100 MW and a 100 kilowatt plant already in operation.

“It will be the biggest in the UK and Ireland for its type,” Buckley said of the Northern Ireland project. “It takes wood and converts it to electricity using gasification.”

The company specializes in designing, building and operating localized renewable power generation plants, with power generation coming from sustainable waste and biomass fuel sources, including wood, agricultural or food waste as fuel.

Buckley said as a developer, Kedco obtains feedstock contracts, power purchase agreements and permitting rights, and uses third party technology for the …

Recession continues to pound recycling efforts

Emma Ritch

If the higher price of recycling doesn’t fly in eco-conscious Berkeley, Calif., is there any hope for other cities? The Cleantech Group’s Emma Ritch weighs in.