U of M startup enVerde LLC to commercialize new waste-to-energy technology
The Minneapolis-based clean tech startup company enVerde has signed an agreement with the University of Minnesota to develop a technology that converts organic waste materials into synthetic gas (syngas).
The waste-to-energy technology, which allows organic wastes to be instantly gasified rather than combusted or incinerated, was developed and patented by Associate Professor Paul Dauenhauer in the University’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Sciences.
“We formed enVerde to identify and commercialize differentiating technology breakthroughs that met two key criteria for success: excellent environmental performance with strong economic viability,” said Dave Goebel, a longstanding energy and chemical industry executive and University alumnus, who is enVerde's CEO and founder. “We have seen decades of attempts at deriving energy from waste, but what really sets our technology apart is that we avoid high capital and operating costs while significantly reducing the environmentally harmful effects and byproducts of burning waste. Since we are repurposing organic wastes to clean energy with catalytically-driven processes, we are not creating new sources of carbon.”
"As we scale this technology up from the lab, we will be evaluating the wide range of potential feedstocks that exist locally and globally," said Dr. Andrea Festuccia, enVerde's chief engineer and scientist. "Waste biomass from forestry and agricultural activities will be our top priorities. Materials that are land-filled or pollute our communities—especially in areas where sanitation and water cleanliness are critical—will also be assessed. Wherever there are humans there will be waste streams for us to address and convert into useful green energy.”
Once created, syngas can be used to power generators to make electricity and to create heat. Syngas is also a raw material component that can be substituted for traditionally produced chemicals—including petrochemicals—in the creation of industrial and household products and a variety of other fuels. It is especially valuable as a fuel in areas where natural gas is not readily available.
“There have been a lot of fits and starts in the clean tech space, and, as an inventor, it is gratifying to me that the excellent team Dave has assembled for enVerde not only believes in the potential of this technology, but has well-thought out business plans for how they will scale, demonstrate, and commercialize its use,” said Dauenhauer, who is also a member of enVerde’s advisory board.
Dauenhauer's department at the University of Minnesota is a leader in catalytic technology and they are consistently ranked among the best chemical engineering departments in the country. The catalytic technology being utilized by enVerde has roots in the work of predecessors such as Professor Lanny Schmidt, a Regents Professor Emeritus whom Dauenhauer worked under while obtaining his Ph.D.
“enVerde has put together the kind of diverse and experienced team that can—in our experience in spinning out more than 100 companies to date—develop this technology successfully, creating benefits for the environment and economic development in the communities that adopt it,” said Russ Straate, Associate Director of the Venture Center in the Office for Technology Commercialization. "It is always exciting to see another University technology take the next steps on the path to commercialization, and this a great partnership that leverages the environmental and economic strengths of this technology with a strong management team at enVerde."