Waste Management Says Yes to Terrabon’s Trash-to-Fuel Tech, Joining Valero

Includes: VLO, WM
by: Greentech Media

By Jeff St. John

Terrabon wants to turn trash and other non-food organic waste into salts that can be converted into gasoline. Waste Management (NYSE:WM), America's biggest trash hauling company, appears to be a fan of the idea.

That's one way to look at this week's news that Waste Management was investing an undisclosed amount into the Texas A&M University spinout.

The Houston-based trash hauler joins San Antonio, Texas-based refining giant Valero (NYSE:VLO), which invested an undisclosed amount in April and recently boosted that investment.

The two want to help Terrabon scale up its technology to turn trash into organic salts that can be refined into fuels and industrial chemicals. Beyond money, WM will also be providing its main resource - lots of trash, or in the industry parlance, "organic waste streams" for Terrabon to process.

Terrabon, launched in 1995, claims its MixAlco acid fermentation process has led to successful production of gasoline at its Bryan, Texas research facility this year. The company is also developing water treatment and waste-to-animal feed technologies.

The company is looking to deploy the technologies through joint ventures and license agreements.

Waste Management has been looking to create energy from its trash for some time. It has landfill waste-to-energy projects it says generate about 500 megawatts of electricity, and recently signed a deal to distribute solar-powered trash containers from BigBelly (see Green Light post).

Valero has also invested in algae-to-biofuel startup Solix and cellulosic ethanol startup Zeachem (see Solix: Another Me-Too Algae Company Raises $10.5M and Fuel From Vinegar? Zeachem Gets $34M to Try it Out).

The refiner also bought out the corn ethanol plants of bankrupt producer VeraSun in March (see Green Light post).