Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund invests $150,000 in Manta Biofuel

Company could remove algae blooms from the Bay and convert them into crude oil

The Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund has invested $150,000 into Manta Biofuel LLC, a company that produces crude oil from algae at a cost that is competitive with traditional petroleum.

The promise is this: Manta could one day skim algae right off of the Chesapeake Bay and convert it into oil, simultaneously cleaning up deadly algae blooms and providing the precursor for clean, renewable fuels.

Harmful algae blooms can choke out large swaths of the bay, depriving fish, crabs and other marine life of oxygen and blocking sunlight for underwater bay grasses. Algae blooms are caused by excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, entering into waterways, from sources such as agriculture, air deposition, septic systems, sewage treatment plants, and runoff from lawns, gardens and paved surfaces.

“Manta Biofuel has developed novel technologies for harvesting algae that address a critical threat to the Chesapeake Bay: life-killing algae blooms,” said Craig Dye, director of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) Ventures Program, which administers the Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund. “The company has also solved key challenges for cost-effectively growing algae and converting it into oil, enabling the company to potentially compete as a viable fuel provider in the burgeoning energy field.”

Manta plans to use the funding to develop the next-generation prototype of its portable, solar-powered, floating algae harvester, which autonomously navigates through waters and collects algae.

Once collected, the algal biomass is converted by Manta into crude oil by subjecting it to high temperature and pressure in a process called hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL).

The oil produced is largely equivalent to petroleum and can be used as a drop-in replacement at the refinery level. Fuels produced from Manta’s oil are renewable and carbon-neutral.

Manta licensed its harvesting technology from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, where company co-founder Ryan Powell invented it while earning his Ph.D. at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET).

Based in Reisterstown, Manta has also received more than $530,000 in total funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Invest Maryland Challenge, TEDCO Technology Validation Program (TVP) and the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technologies REEF program.

The company recently established a large pilot production facility in Thurmont, Md.

The Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund invests in Maryland-based startup companies with innovative technologies that may help improve air and water quality in the Chesapeake Bay area. The program, created in 2008, is made possible by funds from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Fund recipients are jointly selected by Mtech and DNR.

Previous recipients of Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund investments include: Zymetis (now Aemetis), Traffax Inc., Smart Slopes LLC (now Furbish) and NutriGrown LLC.

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