Joule Raises $70 Million for Sunlight to Fuel Technology

Joule Unlimited, which is developing technology to convert sunlight into fuel, has closed a $70 million funding round.

This third round brings Joule’s total raised to over $110 million, led by founding investor Flagship Ventures.

Joule’s patented technology converts sunlight and waste carbon dioxide directly into liquid hydrocarbons.

Unlike biofuel processes that require intermediates such as sugar, algal or agricultural biomass, Joule says it can make liquid hydrocarbons that replace conventional diesel without raw materials through a single-step, continuous process.  

What does Jule use? It engineers photosynthetic microorganisms that directly synthesize diesel molecules. The microorganisms function as biocatalysts that use only sunlight, waste CO2 and wastewater to produce diesel-range hydrocarbons.

This "Helioculture" process produces more net energy than it consumes and yields sulfur-free, ultra-clean diesel. Jule predicts it can achieve efficiencies and costs as low as $30 per barrel equivalent.

Joule plans to quickly build-out a plant in Hobbs, New Mexico to come online this summer with the potential to expand to 1000 acres . The plant will test and optimize its  HeliocultureTM process and SolarConverter® system at incrementally larger scales before commercialization begins, the company says.

This project will show how easily Joule’s process can scale from hundreds to thousands of acres.

"Joule is among the most innovative and transformative companies to have emerged from our VentureLabs unit, encompassing numerous breakthroughs in a highly-efficient, scalable process that represents a new paradigm for liquid fuel production," says Noubar Afeyan, Founder and Chairman of       Joule, who’s also CEO of Flagship Ventures. "Joule has successfully moved beyond the research phase to prove the industrial viability of its approach, with a clear path to global implementation."   

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced it would invest $122 million over five years to establish an Energy Innovation Hub to develop revolutionary methods to generate fuels directly from sunlight.

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