Siluria Technologies: Biofuels Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide

April 22, 2015 |

5-Minute-Guide-logoSiluria’s catalytic process transforms methane into transportation fuels and commodity chemicals in an efficient, cost-effective, scalable manner using processes that can be seamlessly integrated into existing industry infrastructure.

Siluria’s oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) technology, catalytically converts methane (and can co-feed ethane) into ethylene and water. Ethylene is the world’s largest petrochemical building block used in the production of a wide range of plastics, coatings, adhesives, engine coolants, detergents and other everyday products.

The ethylene from the OCM reaction can be purified using conventional separations technologies, resulting in petrochemical grade ethylene ready for use in downstream chemical production or transport in an ethylene pipeline.

The OCM ethylene can be converted using a different catalyst into liquid hydrocarbon fuels or blend stocks, in a process referred to as Ethylene to Liquids. The composition of the liquids products can be tailored to a preferred composition and specification. Examples of ETL products include gasoline, condensates, aromatics, heavy oil diluents and distillates (diesel and jet fuel).

Siluria’s Oxidative Coupling of Methane (“OCM”) process technology is believed to be the first commercially viable process to directly convert methane to ethylene. Siluria’s second process technology can convert ethylene to liquid fuels such as gasoline, diesel or jet fuel. This enables natural gas to potentially supplement petroleum as the worldwide basis for transportation fuels and commodity chemicals. Siluria’s revolutionary catalyst and process technologies uniquely combine nanomaterials, templating and chemical engineering, to convert natural gas into higher value products using efficient processes that can be seamlessly integrated into existing industry infrastructure.


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The Situation

In April 2015, Siluria Technologies opened its demonstration plant located in La Porte, Texas. The plant is wholly owned by Siluria, and co-located at a plant operated by Braskem America, Inc. The demonstration plant is the final scale-up of the OCM process technology and paves the way for Siluria to deploy commercial-scale plants in the 2017/2018 timeframe.

OCM has been around for a generation, as a technology. The problem is that no one has been able to make OCM work on an economic basis – the catalysts just didn’t have the right selectivity or activity rates. After a great deal of excitement and research in the 80s and 90s, attention petered out.

Siluria was the first company to achieve sustained OCM reactions at a pilot stage and has now proven the commercial viability of the technology through the demonstration-scale OCM plant built and successfully operated by Siluria. This breakthrough was achieved using a combination of new innovations in catalyst development, advances in catalyst screening, and a highly motived, creative research and engineering team.

Top Past Milestones

In August 2014, Siluria Technologies received a strategic investment from Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV), the venture investment subsidiary of Saudi Aramco. The total raise for this initial close of Siluria’s Series D financing was $30 million, and included additional investments by all of the major existing investors in Siluria. To date, Siluria has raised just under $100 million since its inception, and we’re expecting that total to reach north of $120 million with a completed Series D financing by year end of $50 million, or perhaps slightly higher.

In June 2014, Siluria Technologies and The Linde Group announced a partnership to combine the companies’ respective technologies and expertise into an optimized and integrated package which Linde would license to the petrochemicals industry for both revamps or expansions at existing ethylene plants and for new world scale methane-to-ethylene plants.

In March 2014, Siluria Technologies debuted its development unit for producing liquid fuels from natural gas based on Siluria’s proprietary oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) and ethylene-to-liquid (ETL) technologies.

In January 2014, Siluria announced that it will build an OCM demonstration plant at Braskem’s site in La Porte, Texas. Braskem is one of the leading producers of ethylene and plastics in the Americas. Siluria and Braskem have also entered into a relationship to explore commercialization of this technology. The OCM demonstration plant will begin operations later this year. Siluria’s Hayward ETL facility and the La Porte OCM demonstration plant are the last scale-up steps prior to full commercialization of Siluria’s technology platform, which is now planned for the 2017 time frame.

In October 2011, Siluria attracted $20 million for a technology platform to convert methane to chemicals, plastics, and fuels. Siluria’s Series B financing was led by the U.K. based  Wellcome Trust, joining Siluria’s founding investors Alloy Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Altitude Life Science Ventures, Lux Capital, and Presidio Ventures in this Series B.

Major Milestone Goals

First commercial plants, expected in 2017/18.

Competitive Edge

The conversion of methane to ethylene using OCM has been a sought-after goal of the chemical industry for more than 30 years because of its promise to add value to natural gas resources and reduce the costs of chemical, plastics and fuels production. Siluria’s highly efficient catalytic process is more scalable, more environmentally friendly and more cost-effective in many settings than current methods of production.

“In comparing this technology to naphtha cracking, you have to look at the price of natural gas vs oil,” Siluria CEO Ed Dineen told the Digest. “As long as oil is 8X higher than gas, Siluria works. If you take an example like Japan where gas is $15, that would be a location that wouldn’t work and we won’t pursue now.”


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