CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston-based Aither Chemicals isn't the only startup with hopes of converting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale into a variety of widely used chemicals.
Aither has a process that uses ethane as a feedstock. The company has said its process uses 80 percent less energy and produces 90 percent less carbon dioxide output than the conventional steam-based cracker technology used by Shell Oil and others.
Siluria Technologies Inc. of San Francisco says it harnesses a combination of nanomaterial science, biotechnology and chemical engineering to convert methane into useful chemicals.
Len Dolhert, chief executive officer of Aither, said he knows about Siluria.
"They are not competitors, and our technologies could be complementary," he said. "They want to use methane as a feedstock, while Aither uses ethane.
"It's worth noting that Aither's technology is ready for commercialization now, while Siluria is in a very challenging field where researchers have worked for over 30 years," Dolhert said. "It does not appear they, or anyone else, have developed a commercially viable (methane) process yet."
Siluria says on its website that it has raised more than $63 million. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the most recent cash infusion, $30 million, came from Bright Capital, a Russian-based venture capital fund, and Vulcan Capital, a fund affiliated with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
In January Aither enlisted Pittsburgh-based Renewable Manufacturing Gateway to help raise $750 million. Dolhert said in February that Aither had raised over $1 million from a variety of sources.
On the topic of Aither Chemicals: Company spokesman Jason Keeling pointed out that Dolhert will be the keynote speaker Tuesday at Pittsburgh Chemical Day, an event that is expected to draw more than 400 attendees.