Home Back Issues October 2011 Trash to cash: Agilyx turns waste plastic into crude oil

Trash to cash: Agilyx turns waste plastic into crude oil

| Print |  Email
Articles - October 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Article Index
Trash to cash: Agilyx turns waste plastic into crude oil
Page 2
Page 3
By Ben Jacklet
1011_Tactics_01
Agilyx co-founders Chris Ulum, left, and Kevin DeWhitt display sacks of plastic feedstock at the company's production facility. Agilyx has converted 2 million pounds of plastic into 250,000 gallons of crude oil. 
Photo by Katharine Kimball

One night several years ago, Chris Ulum was driving to the Oregon Coast with his 10-year-old daughter when she asked him to explain the project that had been keeping him so busy on evenings and weekends. “So I finally explained it to her,” he says, “and at 10 years old she completely grasped the business opportunity and the value proposition. You don’t have to convince anyone of our dependency on fossil crude oil and the merits of having a drop-in replacement for fossil crude. And if you can get that from a garbage stream that’s already being picked up and handled by someone, then it’s not hard to sell the supply demand aspect of the proposition. It just makes intuitive sense.”

By that point, Ulum’s business partner, chemist Kevin DeWhitt, had figured out the technical challenges involved in converting waste plastic to crude synthetic oil. But before DeWhitt could scale the concept to produce significant amounts of oil, he needed money, and to get money he needed a business plan. That was Ulum’s job: to turn a great idea with solid science behind it into a great business.

Ulum, a 48-year-old graduate of Oregon State University with an MBA from Duke University, met DeWhitt through a colleague at Sun Microsystems in November 2004. Their weekend and evening meetings grew more common throughout 2005 and ultimately convinced Ulum to take the plunge and leave his job to launch a startup. They originally called the business Plas2Fuel, and have since renamed it Agilyx (pronounced “Agile-ix”). Recession notwithstanding, they have raised more than $26 million and formed partnerships with key players in the oil and waste industries while building a 35-person company poised to grow into a market leader.

The first step was to prove that their system worked. They accomplished that fairly quickly, raising $300,000 in seed capital in April 2006, building a prototype system at an industrial property in Tigard and extracting their first batch of crude oil from waste plastic several months later. That quick success enabled them to raise more money on better terms.

 



 

Comments   

 
Sustainable   Business
0 #1 Right on!Sustainable Business 2011-10-04 14:31:34
What a terrific idea, good job guys. I'm a little unclear what position you are going for in the market (factory operator, technology leaser, refinery contract negotiator?) but I am sure you will figure it out.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Private liberal arts education: superior outcomes, competitive price

Contributed Blogs
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
0826 thumb collegemoneyBY DEBRA RINGOLD | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Why has six years become an acceptable investment in public undergraduate education that over-promises and underperforms?


Read more...

Podcast: Testing for Emotional Intelligence with John Hersey

Contributed Blogs
Friday, September 19, 2014
ivbU3sIXBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

How can you tell if you, a peer, a subordinate or a job candidate has the emotional intelligence needed to do well?


Read more...

True Blood

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE

Antibiotics really aren’t magic bullets.


Read more...

Podcast: Turn Things Around with David Marquet

Contributed Blogs
Friday, October 17, 2014
davidmarquet thumbBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

How can you move from a command-and-control leadership model to one of true empowerment and accountability? David Marquet did, and he took notes along the way.


Read more...

Gone Girl

News
Monday, September 29, 2014
roundup-logo-thumb-14BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Wehby disappears, Kitzhaber fails to disclose and Seattle gets bike share before Portland.


Read more...

Video: The 100 Best Survey

News
Thursday, August 28, 2014

100-best-logo-2015 500pxw-1OB Research Editor Kim Moore shares some pointers about the 100 Best Companies to Work For survey.


Read more...

Fork & Bottle

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014

National media can’t get enough of Oregon’s pinot noir, artisan-food purveyors and lively, independent film scene.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS