The startup in question is called Sierra Energy and is developing a technology that turns trash into energy without burning it, thereby significantly reducing the associated pollution. While calling Sierra Energy a startup may seem like a stretch as it was founded in 2004, it was only in 2017 that the first commercial system using its FastOx technology was installed.
The technology essentially modifies a blast furnace with FastOx gasification technology, which heats the trash to over 2200 Celsius, a little less than half the temperature of the surface of the sun. This is done through the injection of oxygen and steam into a blast furnace where it reacts with the carbon found in typical waste. This breaks the waste down into its core elements, yielding syn-gas which in turn can be used to produce electricity, renewable diesel and other energy end products. 90% of the waste is converted to syn-gas with the remaining 10% being liquefied and recovered as other raw materials such as metals , which in turn can be re-purposed for other industrial end uses.
Sierra Energy’s strong proof of concept and technology has started to garner significant interest from the Venture Capital community, recently resulting in a $33M investment lead by Breakthrough Energy Ventures.
“We are very excited to work with partners like Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Cox who invest in innovative technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale”Mike Hart, CEO of Sierra Energy
Other investors include the French bank BNP Paribas and the investment fund Twynam. Currently the primary commercial partners of Sierra Energy are government entities such as the US army and Department of Defense, but Sierra have started to see interest from the traditional energy sector with Pacific Gas and Electric becoming a partner as well.
The technology has a wide variety of potential end-users from agricultural waste-products to municipal landfills, and could potentially lead the way forward to help companies and governments to lower waste.