InEnTec Raises $20M for Growth of Garbage-to-Gas Tech

7/29/11Follow @curtwoodward

Here’s something you hear far too rarely following the Great Recession: positive growth news for a Northwest cleantech company. Bend, OR-based InEnTec has raised $20 million in growth capital, as part of a round that could grow to the $70 million range.

The company’s “plasma-enhanced melter” technology takes refuse—anything from common household garbage to industrial and hazardous waste—and uses super high heat to turn it into a synthetic version of natural gas. That gas can be used to power electric plants, or be turned into methanol, ethanol, and hydrogen.

The company’s technology was created by scientists from MIT and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA, and InEnTec’s major engineering R&D center is located in Richland.

InEnTec CEO Karl Schoene says the fresh money will be used to help grow the plasma-enhanced melter technology to a larger scale—a key milestone as a technology matures. Schoene wouldn’t say exactly what InEnTec was planning with the new financing, but says the company has several projects in motion.

“We spend a lot of money on engineering, is I guess the best way to put it—and we anticipate to continue with that habit,” Schoene says. InEnTec is still in the less-than-100 employee category, but you can probably expect headcount to grow in the future.

InEnTec’s business generally involves pushing its technology out in joint ventures that can build and operate plants in different areas, often nearby other industrial centers that would produce the waste material that fuels its gasification process. We’ve previously covered InEnTec’s technology being used at a $120 million refinery in Nevada and a $150 million plant in Michigan.

Schoene wasn’t at liberty to identify his investors in this round, but he says this most recent bet is clearly a bullish play by investors who see an increased need for InEnTec’s products as the economy comes back to life, producing more waste and increasing the demand for syngas.

“InEnTec’s business is fundamentally taking what the world doesn’t want—any kind of waste material, which of course the economy produces in great quantities all the time,” Schoene says. “But that production of waste materials increases when the economy’s running hard, and when the economy’s running slow, waste production decreases.”

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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