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Startup turns landfill-bound plastics back into oil

Startup turns landfill-bound plastics back into oil

Posting in Energy

Agilyx is building a war chest to scale up its plastic-to-oil technology beyond a pilot plant and eventually bring synthetic crude to a refinery near you.

A fraction of plastics are recycled. The rest end up in landfills or in the world's oceans. Agilyx, which recently raised $25 million from investors, has found a way to turn those hard-to-recycle plastics back into oil -- where it might just end up fueling your car.

The Beaverton, Oregon startup said yesterday it has raised $25 million in a series C funding round led by new investor Keating Capital. Existing investors Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, Saffron Hill Ventures, Waste Management -- which has poured money into various waste-to-fuel startups -- and Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, Reference Capital and Total Energy Ventures also joined this latest round. Agilyx snapped up $22 million from investors back in March.

This latest round of raised money will be used to fund marketing, business development and the deployment of new projects. The money also will be used as Agilyx CEO Chris Ulum put it in a release to "build a war chest to continue to scale our operations."

How the process works

Agilyx's system can convert about 10 tons of plastic (see photo of plastics above) into approximately 60 barrels -- or 2,400 gallons -- of oil per day. Once processed, the synthetic crude is sent to a refinery in the Pacific Northwest, where it can be turned into a variety of fuels including gasoline.

The company uses anaerobic thermal reclamation process to convert plastics to oil. Meaning, heat without oxygen.

The conversion begins by heating up the plastics in a oxygen-less tank. As the hot air is recirculated around the large holding tanks, the plastic is turned from a solid to a liquid and eventually to a gas. These gases are pulled from the tank into a central condensing system, where they are cooled and condensed into synthetic crude. An "environmental control device," scrubs all of the lightweight gases that don't condense.

As of now, the company has produced and sold more than 250,000 gallons of crude oil, meaning its technology has recovered more than 2 million pounds of plastic that would otherwise have been incinerated or ended up in a landfill, according to Ulum.

Photos: Agilyx

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure