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HEARD ON THE BEAT / CORPORATE

Douglas Label Lives On in Energy Products

March 24, 1998|John O'Dell

Boeing Co. may have gobbled up McDonnell Douglas Corp., but the venerable Douglas name is still alive and well in Orange County.

In Placentia, to be precise, 20 engineers and technicians of Douglas Advanced Technologies Inc. design power plants that use aerospace technology to produce usable power from an energy source that usually is wasted.

The company, originally Biphase Engines, was founded in 1975 by two former Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers, said Lance Hays, company president and one of the founders. Hays later bought out his partner. While seeking advice from industrial leaders about establishing a new company, Hays was introduced to Donald Douglas Jr., retired president of Douglas Aircraft--the Douglas in McDonnell Douglas. A few meetings later, Douglas agreed to join the fledgling firm and became its chairman--a post he still holds.

Today, Douglas Advanced Technologies is the holding company for two operating units--Biphase Energy and Douglas Energy Co.

The companies design and build the Biphase turbine, which produces power from gas and liquid mixtures that escape under high pressure from oil wells and geothermal sites or are created in the refrigeration process. Conventional turbines, by contrast, run on either gas or liquid but not both.

Separately, Douglas Energy designs, builds and operates power plants fueled by the methane gas produced in landfills.

The two companies recently began marketing their products commercially, Hays said, and are generating about $3 million a year in sales after almost a quarter-century of research and design. He credits Douglas with providing a lot of the advice as well as many of the industry contacts whose assistance has helped keep the business going.

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John O'Dell covers major Orange County corporations and manufacturing for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-5831 and at john.odell@latimes.com

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