Ciris Energy gets $23.8M infusion from Khosla

Faith Merino · January 3, 2011 · Short URL:

The company raises funds to launch commercial technology to convert coal to natural gas

Ciris Energy, a natural gas production company, announced Monday the closing of a Series B round of funding led by Khosla Ventures, with participation from previous investors Braemar Energy Ventures, Rho Ventures, and GE Energy Financial Services.  While the company did not disclose the amount, an SEC filing indicates that Ciris raised some $23.8 million of a total $39.7 million.  The company previously raised $4 million in a Series A round.

After nine years of research and development on the company’s proprietary technology, Ciris was founded in 2007 with a focus on the large-scale conversion of fossil fuels like coal to natural gas.  The U.S. has great stores of untapped crude oil, coal, and shale, and the company reasons on its website that the large-scale development of technology to harness and reign in those stores would allow the U.S. to finally break free of its dependence on foreign oil. 

The company boasts in its announcement that lab and field tests have shown that Ciris’ technologies are more economical than conventional and unconventional natural gas development processes.  The latest round of funding will be used to launch the company’s first commercial-scale projects for the conversion of coal to methane.

"Ciris has the potential to transform and extend the coal resource base in a number of distinct geographies," said Vinod Khosla in a prepared statement. "This may be the cleanest and cheapest form of clean coal."

Total global coal consumption in 2009 reached a record high of six billion tons, up from 5.8 billion tons in 2008, according to the World Coal Association.  By comparison, in 1990, nearly 3.5 billion tons of coal were consumed worldwide.  Coal supplies approximately 27% of the world’s energy needs and generates more than 40% of the world’s electricity.

Interestingly, while the United States holds the world’s largest reserves of coal, total U.S. coal consumption has dropped 4.9% compared to last year, according to Genscape, an energy data provider that monitors coal use in real time using a device that’s installed in the power plants.

Ciris was founded by Robert Downey, a 33-year veteran of the oil, gas, and power generation industry.

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