GreatPoint Energy: Going Commercial, Grabs FutureGen Exec

greatpointpilotplant.jpgOne of the most well-funded cleantech startups in 2007, GreatPoint Energy, is using its more than $115 million in funding to tread a path toward commercializing its clean-coal technology.

This week the company, which converts coal and other fossil fuels into pipeline-quality natural gas and then captures and stores the associated carbon, said it has gotten successful results from tests at its pilot facility in Des Plaines, Ill., and is now working on the “immediate development” of a commercial-scale facility. O.K. good, so that 9-digit investment from high-profile investors Dow Chemical, Advanced Technology Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and coal company Peabody Energy isn’t all for naught.

The company is still figuring out where to build the plant, but the location choice will be made based on close proximity to a source of feedstock that can be converted to natural gas (coal or petcoke), a natural gas pipeline, and an aquifier that can store the carbon that will be sequestered, GreatPoint Energy’s Chief Operating Officer Avi Goldberg told us.

And in order to move commercialization along, GreatPoint has hired Jerry Oliver as executive vice president of commercialization. As Oliver was formerly the senior VP of project development for the group behind the now basically defunct clean-coal project FutureGen, he probably wasn’t too hard to woo away. Oliver will be in charge of selecting the location and getting the plant up and running, which Goldberg predicts will happen by 2011.

GreatPoint’s moves toward commercialization come at a time when there are more and more questions raised about how long it will take to develop the clean-coal technology. Climate scientists like James Hansen says clean-coal tech could be at least a decade away. We’ll see if GreatPoint can meet its three year goal.