Prometheus, $10M in Hand, Poised to Deliver Alternative Fuel for Shell Technology Ventures

7/3/09Follow @gthuang

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a coup. The company is the world’s largest producer of liquid natural gas, and it has started to push non-traditional sources of fuel in general, Montague says. Proponents of liquid natural gas say it is cleaner, cheaper, and safer to store and transport than conventional fuels like diesel, propane, and heating oil. For Prometheus, Kenda Capital (and Shell) will provide operational support, guidance on legal issues, and access to projects and customers that a small company like Prometheus would never even hear about otherwise. “They open doors we don’t have access to,” Montague says.

In turn, Prometheus gives Shell Technology Ventures access to new kinds of liquid natural gas-producing technologies—which could potentially become disruptive as an alternative to oil. Prometheus has developed patented machinery for taking waste gas from landfills, wastewater treatment plants, gas wells, coal mines, and farm sites, and turning it into clean-burning fuel for trucking fleets, school buses, and other heavy vehicles.

The technology boils down to two parts: purification, whereby the machinery removes carbon dioxide, nitrates, and other impurities from the waste or residual gas (leaving methane); and liquefaction, whereby the methane gas is converted into liquid natural gas, which can be stored and transported as a clean and relatively dense form of energy. “You’re taking a total waste product and turning it into something valuable,” Butler says. “This is strategic for [Shell]. What’s after traditional fossil-based fuel?”

Prometheus claims its method is cheaper and more efficient than other ways of producing liquid natural gas—plus some of its fuel comes from waste sources. The firm competes in the same space as alternative fuel companies like Clean Energy Fuels (NASDAQ: CLNE), owned by T. Boone Pickens, and Applied LNG Technologies in Texas. But Montague says Prometheus is unique because of its approach, its technology, and its distribution model—its plants are set up to be physically close to key customers, unlike most liquid natural gas plants that may be hundreds of miles away from customers and require high transportation costs. “We find the waste sources of methane, we operate the equipment, and we deliver [fuel] directly to the customer in the end market,” Montague says.

Bowerman landfill-to-liquid natural gas facility, Orange County, CAMore specifically, the funding from Shell Technology Ventures will allow Prometheus to expand its operations at three key sites. It opened the world’s first landfill-to-liquid natural gas facility in Orange County, CA, last year (see left), and hopes to make its operations there more efficient. (It has shipped more than 500,000 gallons of liquid natural gas from that facility.) Prometheus also plans to expand its residual gas-to-liquid natural gas plant in southern Utah, which has produced 1.5 million gallons of fuel so far. And lastly, the company is getting ready to open a new facility in Poland—the first of its kind anywhere—that converts waste gas from a coal mine to liquid natural gas. The Polish plant broke ground last fall, and Prometheus plans to also … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • Joel Baughman

    Congratulations, Kirt! Glad to hear things are going well.