Peabody Buys Into Clean Coal Startup GreatPoint Energy

greatpoint.jpg“Clean coal” startup GreatPoint Energy, which had one of the largest venture investments in 2007 with $115 million, is getting funding from massive coal company Peabody Energy. A nod from the coal company that fuels about 10 percent of all U.S. electricity, and more than 2 percent of electricity worldwide, is a significant validation of Cambridge, Mass.-based GreatPoint’s technology.

Peabody Energy (BTU) says it has agreed to become a minority investor in GreatPoint Energy, though the companies did not disclose the size of the investment. Peabody joins a long list of GreatPoint investors, including Dow Chemical (DOW), Citi Sustainable Investments, AES Corp. (AES), Suncor Energy (SU), Advanced Technology Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Beyond the investment Peabody Energy and GreatPoint Energy also say they will work on coal gasification projects using Peabody reserves and land.

GreatPoint Energy converts coal, and other fossil fuels, into “pipeline-quality” natural gas, which it can sell, and then captures and stores the carbon. The company says it can produce its natural gas product “bluegas” for about $4 per million BTUs (British thermal units), lower than the current market price of nearly $7 per million BTUs. In the latest press release the company says it has finished testing a pilot facility in Des Plaines, Ill., and has started engineering on its first commercial project.

Dirty-burning coal is a massive problem. About half of U.S. electrical generation comes from cheap-but-dirty coal power, according to the Energy Information Administration, and more coal plants are in the works, particularly in rapidly developing countries like China. While there has been more backlash against coal plants recently, (check out our coal deathwatch) many say that clean coal technologies like GreatPoint’s are at least a decade away.