A privately held, Seattle, WA-based firm, Prometheus Energy, by the end of the year will begin commercial operations on a small-scale liquefaction plant at a landfill in Southern California, seeking to produce 5,000 gallons/day of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for the Orange County public transit bus system that already runs on LNG. Prometheus’ backers are betting that landfill, coal bed and various sources of uneconomic/”stranded” gas supplies can be tapped globally for the transportation market.

Various natural gas supplies that are shut in because of inadequate volumes to make them economic in a traditional pipeline context could be profitable in a $3 or more/gallon-of-gasoline world when converted to LNG for fueling fleets, according to Dan Clarkson, vice president for governmental and legal affairs, who says he and his colleagues smile at the thought of $70/barrel oil.

Backed presently by $31 million of private equity, Prometheus is attracting more interest with the continued high petroleum prices worldwide and the increased push to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as evidenced by the new law (AB 32) passed last week in California. The company has a second potential landfill site (Keifer) in Sacramento, CA, which seeks to produce up to 10,000 gallons/day of LNG to fuel county government vehicle fleets and supply the growing retail clean fuel market.

Overall, Prometheus estimates there may be as much as 1 million gallons/day of potential LNG from landfills along the West Coast. In Irvine, CA, in southern Orange County where the company hopes to begin pre-commercial operation of its facilities later this fall, some 40,000 gallons/day of overall potential exists, Clarkson said.

The technology is considered “distributed” in its relatively small scale, and the access to the methane is relatively cheap, according to Prometheus officials. They stress that the company’s system captures what normally would be released into the atmosphere adding to the global warming GHG emissions.

Along with the California landfill sites, the company and what Clarkson called a “strategic partner” are currently negotiating for an LNG plant in Poland that would capture coal-mine methane, which is apparently a large problem for the Polish coal industry. Prometheus has a joint venture with a Polish company and could begin operating a plant in that country next year.

Prometheus was formed in May 2003 and led by CEO Kirt Montague, a Seattle attorney, who has assembled a board and management team including other lawyers and PhDs with varied backgrounds including finance and technology. The company was recently profiled by The Sunday Times of London, which noted that as a small, developing company, Prometheus is seeking more visibility and expansion overseas through London financial markets.

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