The Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund has invested $250,000 in Owings Mills-based Manta Biofuel Inc., a company developing renewable crude oil from algae at a cost that could be competitive with traditional petroleum, fund administrators announce today.
The Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund invests in Maryland-based startup companies with innovative technologies that help improve air and water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Portfolio companies are jointly selected by fund staff at the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, along with technical staff at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“We are pleased to have received this investment,” said Manta Co-Founder Ryan Powell. “We plan to leverage this support by scaling up our production, first for residential and commercial conventional heating oil markets, then for the broader crude oil market, by 2022.”
Manta’s patented harvesting technology uses magnetic beads to rapidly stick to algae grown in commercial ponds. The beads (and algae) are then removed from the ponds and concentrated through magnetic force in a single step, the algae is separated from the beads, and the algae is converted into oil. The beads are reused, as is the nutrient-rich water. Chicken manure is used in the water to speed the growth of algae.
“This investment in Manta Biofuel’s development and commercialization of algae crude oil makes sense from both the water quality and climate mitigation perspectives,” said Sarah Lane, Innovative Technology Coordinator for the Chesapeake and Coastal Service in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “Compared to fossil fuel, the use of algae crude oil is carbon neutral in that algae removes the same amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during its growth cycle as is emitted when it is burned. Poultry litter is also used by Manta Biofuel during that same growth cycle, further reducing nutrient introduction into the Chesapeake Bay.”
While crude oil can be converted into many oil-based products, including gasoline, the company has focused on conventional heating oil initially, shipping its first product in March 2018.
Manta is currently scaling up production of its fuel oil product at its 15-acre facility in Thurmont, Md., to meet demand from local customers who are interested in purchasing over 100,000 gallons of fuel oil, according to the company.
Manta’s algae-harvesting technology was licensed from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Powell invented the harvester while earning his Ph.D. at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET).
Manta has raised $3 million in total funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program, Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund, Invest Maryland Challenge, TEDCO Technology Validation Program (TVP) and the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technologies REEF program.
The Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund, created in 2008, is supported by funding from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and is administered by Mtech.
The investment is the fund’s second into Manta; the first was for $150,000 in 2015.
“We are excited to further support Manta Biofuel’s growth,” said Jolene Gurevich, Manager of the Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund. “While our prior investment supported product development, this one enables the company to scale its production to meet the demands of its first target market: heating oil. In addition, if Manta can successfully commercialize its biofuel, the net result will be less air pollution and less river acidification, along with a cleaner Chesapeake Bay.”