10 April 2022 |

Keep Cool- 04/10/2022

By Nick Van Osdol

DEALS IN FOCUS

🧪 HIF Global

Methanol (CH₃OH) has a number of applications, e.g. as a fuel for transportation, whether in cars or in ships. Beyond use as a fuel source, it’s used in production of countless products and industrial applications. More than half of the world’s methanol is used to produce chemicals which then flow into production processes for things like adhesives and other solvents.

We’ve paid a lot of attention to sustainable hydrogen production methods so far this year. Hydrogen is both a) involved in the production process of methanol itself and b) is a good example of another chemical ubiquitous in the world’s economy that needs to be produced in zero-carbon ways for industry to decarbonize fully over coming decades.

HIF Global raised a massive $250M+ round this week to produce efuels, which require the production of methanol before it can be turned into ‘longer’ hydrocarbons for use in powering vehicles. A large number of industrial + transport players, such as Porsche and Baker Hughes, provided the funding, which gives you an idea of who has a vested interest in seeing this work.

HIF Global plans to produce their e-fuels sustainably via a multi-step process:

  1. Use wind power to produce green hydrogen 
  2. Capture CO2 from the atmosphere 
  3. Mix the hydrogen with CO2 in a reactor to produce methanol 
  4. Methanol is then turned into even more complex hydrocarbons for use as e-fuel 

In the future, HIF Global wants to expand their production process to other chemicals like liquified petroleum gas if they can nail their initial e-fuel formulation.

The most interesting question for me here is how to square massive investments like this vs. EVs and electrification. There is definitely a need for synthetic fuels for non-consumer transport applications (heavy machinery). Still, if I had Porsche on the phone, I’d be curious to pick their brain on the mix of offerings they envision in the future and how synthetic fuel based cars will stack up vs. EVs in their mind.

Perhaps their answer would focus on all of the cars that are already on the road and moving them from gasoline to something lower-carbon 🤔.

Illustrative ARC reactor design | Source: ARC’s website

☢️ ARC Clean Energy

ARC Clean Energy raised $24M in Series A funding to develop its advanced small modular nuclear reactor (“ARC-100”). The reactor offers 100 MW of electricity, enough to support 250,000 people… not so ‘small’ in the grand scheme of things! 

Unlike traditional reactors which use water as a coolant, ARC 100 uses sodium, which allows it to operate at lower pressures, improving the efficiency and safety of the system. Furthermore, ARC 100 has the capacity to recycle its own fuel and can ‘re-valorize’ its own nuclear waste. The reactor can operate for 20+ years without refueling. In addition, ARC 100 can recycle waste from other traditional reactors to generate energy. 

Nuclear waste is one of the biggest gripes people have with nuclear power (beyond fears about safety); the ability to reuse radioactive materials multiple times cuts down on waste, as well as environmental and financial costs of extracting the raw materials, considerably.

The forecast plant size is about 100,000 square feet and its modularized components can be shipped and installed at the site using regular commercial equipment. New Brunswick Power (NB Power), the provincial utility, will deploy the first ARC 100 at its Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station (PLNGS) site. 

This raise for an SMR developer comes at a time when some countries are starting to say ‘yes’ to nuclear power again. The U.K. offers a recent example.

If nuclear does take off again, SMRs will play a key role in the next phase of the industries’ development. Building ‘traditional’ reactors takes time and massive amounts of capital. If SMRs deliver on their promise of being a) cheaper b) faster to deploy and c) safer, then you’ll likely see countries spring for dozens or even hundreds of SMRs vs. single digit traditional reactors.

DEAL HEAT 🔥

Here are financing rounds and new funds that caught our eyes this week 🙇.

🌬️ Climeworks raised $644M to scale its direct air capture technology from one current operational site to dozens (and eventually, hundreds?). Partners Group and GIC co-led. We covered this one in depth on Thursday. Read more here(Switzerland, Hardware)

🧪 HIF Global raised $260M in funding to develop green methanol. Methanol can be used in industrial applications as well as a fuel source. Porsche AGEIG, AME, Baker Hughes, and Gemstone Investments participated. Read more here. (Chile, Hardware)

⚡ Enerkem raised $255M in funding and financing for its biofuel and circular chemical production business. Repsol led the round. Read more here(Canada, Energy)

📊 Sweep raised $73M in Series B funding for its enterprise focused carbon management software business. They describe their goal as: “…scale corporate climate actions using the power of data, science and network effects.” Coatue led the round. Read more here(U.S., Software)

💱 ClimeCo raised $50M in funding for its environmental commodities trading business. ClimeCo is also a developer of decarbonization focused projects, ranging from mangrove restoration to agricultural methane reduction. Warburg Pincus led. Read more here(U.S., Software)

🔋 Blue Current raised $30M in funding from Koch Strategic Platforms for its solid-state battery development business, with applications across EVs, grid storage, and more. Read more here(U.S., Hardware)

🔋 E-Zinc raised $25M in Series A funding for its zinc-air batteries, optimized for long-duration energy storage. Anzu Partners led the round. Read more here(Canada, Hardware)

☢️ ARC Clean Energy raised $24M in Series A funding to develop advanced small modular nuclear reactor (“ARC-100”). The Government of New Brunswick provided the funding. Read more here(Canada, Hardware)

🤖 Doosan Mobility Innovation raised $22.5M in funding to develop hydrogen-powered drones, which can be used for logistics, cargo and military purposes. IDG Capital, Korea Investment Partners and DS Asset Management participated. Read more here(South Korea, Hardware)

👨‍💻 Itineris raised $17.4M in funding for its SaaS solution that helps utilities improve operational efficiency, customer experience and achieve environmental goals. Alychlo led the funding. Read more here(Belgium, Software)

🐛 Better Origin raised $16M in Series A funding for its AI-powered insect mini-farms that convert food waste into sustainable animal feed. Balderton Capital led the round. Read more here(U.K., Hardware)

🍃 Leaft Foods raised $15M in Series A funding to extract protein from leaves. The company extracts RuBisCo (protein in green leaves responsible for photosynthesis), which is competitive with animal proteins (similar digestibility, allergen-free, more sustainable). Khosla Ventures led the round. Read more here(New Zealand, Hardware)

🌿 Brilliant Planet raised $12M in Series A funding to capture carbon via algae farms. USV and Toyota Ventures co-led the round. Read more here(U.K, Hardware)

🌸 Phool raised $8M in Series A funding for its ‘flower cycling’ technology business. Their tech enables conversion of floral waste into charcoal free incense sticks + essential oils. The company will also use the funding in ramping up its R&D efforts to make ‘Fleather’- which is a vegan alternative to animal leather. Sixth Sense Ventures led the round. Read more here(India, Consumer Goods)

🔋 Liminal raised $8M in Series A funding for its battery manufacturing intelligence platform that provides inspection and process control across battery manufacturing stages. Good Growth Capital led the round. Read more here(U.S., Software)

💨 Fibersail raised $5.45M in Seed funding to scale its technology that leverages sensors to measure deviations in the blades of wind turbines. FORWARD.one led the round. Read more here(Netherlands, Hardware)

💦 Aclarity raised $3.3M in seed funding for its PFAS destruction technology that eliminates cancerous chemicals from water. Burnt Island Ventures led the round. Read more here(U.S., Hardware)

💦 Wisewell raised $2M in Pre-seed funding to commercialize its water purifier. BECO Capital led the round. Read more here(U.S., Hardware)

♻️ Kwota raised $1.63M in Pre-seed funding for its carbon credit marketplace, ​which will focus on credits generated from using recycled materials in production. Change Ventures led the round. Read more here(Estonia, Software)

💰 Voyager Ventures raised $100M for their first ‘decarbonization’ fund, with a target focus of 500M tonnes of CO2e emissions reductions from accelerating early stage climate technology companies. Read more here(U.S., Funds)

💰 Wireframe Ventures raised $77M for their third fund, which, as with their previous two funds, will focus on climate, sustainability, and health focused tech. Read more here(U.S., Funds)

ELSEWHERE IN CLIMATE TECH

⚡ Energy: The UK announced plans to build 8 new nuclear power plants, a week after India announced a similar expansion strategy. 

⚡ Energy: Exhibit A of why DERs are worth developing 

📜 Politics: With midterms somehow looming again, will Dems compromise with Manchin to push through more climate legislation?

📊 Data: U.S. voters predominantly favor a range of climate and environment focused public spending initiatives, including funding to upgrade electricity transmission lines (+47-point margin)! 

🍄 Reads: Mycelia continue exceed all expectations in terms of their ‘intelligence’

📚 Reads: ICYMI this week – super important read on crypto x carbon markets. 

🦅 Bad news: No lack of negative externalities with wind power… 🙁

👍 Good news: There’ll soon be a tax credit for carbon removal in Canada!

💼 New gigs: Facebook’s former CTO wants to focus on climate tech (as an investor / philanthropist… for now)