City Renewable Firm Lands $20M Investment

The Demo Plant in New Bedford has been processing solid waste to produce a gaseous synthetic fuel that includes high concentrations of carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas. Impurities are bound into the solid slag, the company says. Providence Business News

Start-up firm with city plant lands $20M investment
By Joe Cohen Standard-Times staff writer

NEW BEDFORD — A company developing new technology to turn waste into gas at its New Bedford research and development facility has announced a major new investment intended to carry the company from the test to the commercial stages of operation.
Ze-gen Inc., a Boston-headquartered start-up, reported Tuesday it had secured $20 million in new financing from new and existing investors. Ze-gen was started with about $8 million.
Megan Feldt, Ze-gen director of regulatory and commercial affairs, said the new investment was a “huge vote of confidence (especially) considering the tough economic market now. We are very, very encouraged.”
The company is in what is known as the “pre-revenue” stage, meaning it is losing money as it works to develop its technology and transition into a profit-making entity. The company operates its only demonstration facility in New Bedford on the site of the ABC Disposal facility off Shawmut Avenue near the New Bedford Regional Airport.
Ze-gen opened the demonstration project in October 2007. It is developing a process that takes waste including wood and other debris and feeds the waste into a furnace at a very high temperature and limited oxygen, resulting in the gases hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Those two gases can then be burned together to make energy, which can be used for standard boilers such as those that operate on natural gas. The boilers can make steam, power a turbine or make hot water.
The Ze-gen process is intended to be environmentally friendly, avoiding greenhouse gases of a landfill and providing a clean, renewable source of energy.
Ms. Feldt said Ze-gen believes the new round of financing will carry the company for 18 to 24 months. The company is only using the current site at ABC Disposal as a demonstration facility and is operating under a limited state environmental permit. Ms. Feldt said Ze-gen has found New Bedford to be “very supportive and we enjoy working with the city.” The company has not determined where its first commercial plant will be located, although it is considering Southeastern Massachusetts.
Ze-gen is targeting a commercial demonstration facility for operation by 2010 and a full-scale commercial operation of its process by 2012.
Mayor Scott W. Lang said: “New Bedford has played an integral part in the research and development phase for Ze-gen. I am optimistic we will have Ze-gen in the city as one of our alternative energy companies for jobs and an expanded tax base. We are creating a good mix of job opportunities; we are actively working to find them a site in the city. We will continue to work with them.”
The announcement Tuesday involving the new financing included unspecified funding from Waroz Holding Co., which is an entity tied to a Middle Eastern industrial conglomerate known as the Omzest Group of Oman and also as Omar Zawawi Establishment.
Other funding came from existing investors including Flagship Ventures, a Cambridge-based venture capital company, and VantagePoint Venture Partners, a Silicon Valley firm focused on 21st century technologies. In addition, the Massachusetts Technology Development Corp., which was created by state government, is participating.
Contact Joe Cohen at
January 14, 2009
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