Siluria Attracts Paul Allen, Gets $30M to Turn Natural Gas Into Chemicals, Fuels

Xconomy San Francisco — 

[Updated: 2:50 pm PT] San Francisco-based Siluria Technologies, the company with a big idea for converting natural gas into fuels and specialty chemicals, has now attracted some more big money and big name investors.

Siluria said today it has pulled in a $30 million Series C venture round led by new investors Bright Capital and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital. All of Siluria’s existing investors chipped in again, including ARCH Venture Partners, The Wellcome Trust, Alloy Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Lux Capital, Altitude Life Science Ventures, and Presidio Ventures. Siluria, which announced its Series A round in October 2010, has now pulled in $63.3 million of total investment.

The concept for Siluria, which got its start in Angela Belcher’s lab at MIT, is to convert the cheap and abundant methane in natural gas into high-value chemicals like the ethylene that goes into plastics, as well as fuel. As the technology has been honed in the company’s San Francisco labs, Siluria has had the good fortune to see a boom in U.S. supplies of its critical raw material—natural gas. That abundant supply has made natural gas even more attractive as a low-cost alternative to oil as the source for fuel and specialty chemicals.

The new shot of cash will be used to help Siluria commercialize its process, and start work next year on its first commercial demonstration plant, the company said in a statement.

Steve Hall, managing director with Vulcan Capital

“Siluria provides an answer to one of the world’s greatest challenges: the ability to produce commodity chemicals and transportation fuels from a resource that is a cheaper and more abundant than oil. With Siluria’s technology, natural gas can become a fundamental building block for a number of industries,” said Steve Hall, Managing Director at Vulcan Capital, in a statement. “The compatibility of Siluria’s process with the existing infrastructure paves the way for widespread adoption.”  Hall added in an email that, “Vulcan has made a number of investments in the natural gas sector and we see a clear path for Siluria’s technology to drive enormous value creation and market expansion opportunities for that industry.”