Chevron backs green oil extraction company

Cambridge, Mass.-based Soane Energy, which is aiming to cut the impact of crude oil exploration and production, recently raised an undisclosed amount of financing from venture capitalists. Intervale Capital led the investment with support from CTTV Investments, which is also known as Chevron Technology Ventures.

“Our reliance on fossil fuels will actually increase over the next two decades,” said company founder David Soane. “While alternative energy will fulfill our power needs of tomorrow, Soane Energy’s technology can be applied today to improve the efficiency of oil and gas extraction and reduce the environmental impact of exploration and production.”

The company’s technology uses chemistry to improve the process of extracting oil from oil sands, a naturally occurring mixture of sand or clay and a thick form of petroleum.

Soane is one of several dozen startups in the market. Oil and gas companies make hundreds of billions of dollars each year extracting, refining and transporting their products to consumers. It’s a business that can apply a small technological advantage to a global supply chain and benefit from improved efficiency.

Canada and Venezuela have huge reserves of oil sands, much of which has gone untapped due to the difficultly of extracting and refining it. There may be as much as 175 billion barrels of petroleum sitting in Canada’s sands waiting to be extracted, according to Soane.

“The market is quite large,” says Wes Raffel. “There aren’t too many that are larger.”

Raffel, a former general partner with Advanced Technology Ventures, previously partnered with Charles River Ventures and Nth Power to back Rive Technology, a startup focused on making better refining processes for oil companies. So far, the Cambridge, Mass.-based company has raised $23.3 million from investors to pursue its technology.