Siluria Technologies Unlocks Key Petrochemical Challenge

Breakthrough Will Provide Economical, Environmental and National Security Solutions for One of World's Largest Industries

Jun 30, 2010, 17:05 ET from Siluria Technologies

SAN FRANCISCO, June 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Siluria Technologies announced it is developing an efficient and economic process to convert natural gas into value-added chemicals, used by industry and also manufactured into thousands of everyday products.  The challenge has defied scientists and engineers for decades.  

Backed by some of the world's leading venture capital firms, Siluria is a San Francisco Bay Area start-up. Siluria is working on a proprietary catalytic process for the direct conversion of natural gas, the world's most abundant petrochemical feedstock, into ethylene, the world's largest commodity chemical. Siluria's success will enable a novel, economically attractive pathway to produce existing chemicals and fuels.

"While the world's access to oil supplies is becoming more expensive, the natural gas resource base continues to grow," explains Dr. Alex Tkachenko, president of Siluria. "Our goal is to convert methane, the principal component of natural gas, directly into ethylene, the fundamental building block of the chemical industry. Ethylene and its derivatives, such as polyethylene, are in thousands of everyday products, including tires, medical devices, cosmetics, food packaging, anti-freeze, paints, appliances, and liquid crystal displays."

"Siluria is pursuing one of the grand challenges of the petrochemical industry. The knock-on effects in the petrochemical value chain would be profound – just like previous feedstock shifts, wood to coal in the 19th century, and coal to oil in the 20th," comments Bill Joy, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Ethylene is the largest global commodity chemical, with 140 million tons used annually in an industry worth $160 billion per year. Today, ethylene is produced via steam cracking, a mature technology that consumes more energy than any other chemical process, uses valuable oil resources, and is the largest contributor to greenhouse emissions in the chemical industry.

"Siluria's process will, when successfully implemented, save industry tens of billions of dollars per year in raw material and operation costs," notes Clint Bybee, co-founder and managing director, ARCH Venture Partners. "This innovation also has the potential to create thousands of new domestic jobs."

Siluria's catalyst synthesis technology is based on the innovative discoveries of MIT Professor and Siluria founder, Dr. Angela Belcher. Dr. Belcher's synthetic technology produces inorganic materials in the same way nature makes them: with a bottom-up, versus a conventional, top-down synthetic approach. Siluria's technology application is to grow nanowire catalysts with unique surfaces, structures and shapes. This synthetic approach offers improved ways to manipulate catalyst surfaces.  Novel surfaces have the potential for improving catalyst performance in structure-sensitive reactions.  Under license from MIT, Siluria is developing catalysts that are robust, stable at high temperature, and compatible with the existing petrochemical industry infrastructure.

"The notion that varying DNA sequence information can be used to optimize the properties of catalysts for a billion pound-per-year chemical process illustrates a profound connection between biology and the inorganic world," observes J. Leighton Read, board chairman and Alloy Ventures investor. "We're excited to develop the catalysis field with Siluria's excellent team."

About Siluria Technologies

Siluria, based in San Francisco, was founded in 2008 by Dr. Belcher, with the backing of a strong VC syndicate including Alloy Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Altitude Life Sciences Ventures, Lux Capital, and Harris & Harris.


Perrin Kaplan, 206.909.0119

Jim Merrick 425.998.8546

SOURCE Siluria Technologies