Open a garage door in Silicon Valley and you’re likely to find some kind of technology under development by an enterprising entrepreneur. But a gasoline refinery?
That’s what you’ll see in the back of Siluria Technologies’ outpost in an anonymous office park by San Francisco Bay. A contraption of pipes, tubing and metal cylinders of various sizes is producing low-carbon gasoline not by refining petroleum but converting methane into fuel through the use of a catalyst grown from a genetically modified virus.
This is not how ExxonMobil makes gasoline.
But the result is the same. Eric Scher, Siluria’s vice president of research and development, opens up a bottle of clear liquid produced by the pilot project and invites me to take a sniff. Yep, it’s pure petrol but without a drop of petroleum. There is one other key difference: Siluria says its gasoline carries half the carbon footprint of fuel derived from oil.
“We’re trying to build a company that enables us to utilize natural gas to the greatest extent,” said Scher. “We’re talking about making all the products people make out of oil but out of gas. That means it will be cleaner as you don’t carry the sulfur and the mercury and all the other crap that comes out of the ground in a liquid.”