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Metafuels raises $8 million from Energy Impact Partners, Contrarian Ventures for eSAF pilot plant

Metafuels plans to set up a pilot plant to produce eSAF at the Paul Scherrer Institut, shown here. (Photo: Paul Scherrer Institut)

Zurich, Switzerland-based climate-tech startup Metafuels announced Dec. 13 that it raised $8 million in seed money during its first institutional funding round led by prominent climate venture capitalists Energy Impact Partners and Contrarian Ventures.

 

Metafuels focuses on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made using renewable electricity (eSAF).

 

Metafuels’ eSAF, and that of its competitors, can replace normal kerosene regardless of the size and type of aircraft or whether it operates short-haul or long-haul.

 

According to Metafuels, its approach achieves the lowest cost of production through high efficiency and an ultra-high yield of SAF.

 

Similarly, the technology has high environmental performance of up to a 90 percent reduction in lifecycle emissions.

 

The startup will use the proceeds from the funding round, involving respected investors EIP and Contrarian Ventures, to set up a pilot facility at the Paul Scherrer Institut with which the company recently announced a collaboration.

 

Metafuels’ eSAF technology enables a seamless transition away from fossil-based kerosene using a proprietary process for the conversion of green methanol to eSAF.

 

Green methanol is a chemical produced from green hydrogen (H2) and sustainably sourced carbon dioxide.

 

Green hydrogen can be generated from water electrolysis driven by renewable electricity while CO2 can be captured from biogenic sources including wastes and residues in the short term—and through direct air capture in the long term.

 

Metafuels’ signature blend of SAF is aerobrew, which the company said is the result of years of research.

 

This is sustainably produced kerosene made from a two-step process that turns green methanol to kerosene.

 

According to Metafuels, unlike many of its competitors the company is focused on a technology that produces jet fuel as its primary output.

 

The highly selective approach enables a higher yield, which, together with high energy efficiency, allows industry-leading cost of production to be achieved, Metafuels stated.

 

It also concentrates the use of valuable, sustainably sourced carbon and renewable electricity into one product, rather than coproducing various other renewable hydrocarbons as byproducts—such as gasoline or diesel—for markets that Metafuels said are contracting.

 

“Jet fuel is a special fuel,” said Leigh Hackett, chairman, co-founder and chief commercial officer at Metafuels. “It has to operate in very varied environments from takeoff to cruising altitude in all types of weather conditions while delivering high mission performance. Operational safety is paramount from fuel handling on the ground to high-altitude combustion performance. Energy density, specific energy content, flash point, freeze point, derived cetane number, boiling curve and many other parameters have to meet stringent standards, which is why for safety reasons these fuels need to go through the ASTM alternative aviation fuel accreditation process. There is currently no process to go beyond a 50 percent SAF blend, which is the current aerobrew target. Though that will evolve over time.”

 

As for the challenges, Metafuels said it believes the move towards green mandates—the rising cost of conventional fuels and inevitable environmental taxation—and stakeholder demands will counterbalance the shorter-term additional cost of producing its eSAF. 

 

“Once we get past the building blocks of selecting sustainably sourced carbon and hydrogen, we’re into relatively straightforward though groundbreaking technology to convert those components into jet fuel,” said Saurabh Kapoor, CEO of Metafuels. “Then, because it’s a form of kerosene—just not derived from petrochemicals—you can use the same pipelines, infrastructure, storage, transportation and aircraft. With industry-leading cost of production, aerobrew will help airlines meet their obligations and stakeholders’ demands while maintaining competitiveness.”

 

Ashwin Shashindranath, a partner at Energy Impact Partners, added, “Metafuels’ expertise and engineering offer a pivotal opportunity to revolutionize sustainable aviation fuel technology at a crucial time. SAF solutions like Metafuels are essential for a seamless transition to greener travel methods without altering people’s flying habits, while also ensuring sustainability.”

 

Rokas Peciulaitis, managing partner and founder at Contrarian Ventures, said, “We’re excited to join Saurabh, Leigh and the rest of the Metafuels team on their journey to transition aviation away from fossil fuels. To date, the aviation sector had very few feasible options to decarbonize. Flying is an absolutely essential part of the globalized economy, and without it we’d be numerous GDP percentage points worse off. We firmly believe Saurabh and Leigh and the team they’ve built as being at the forefront to scale SAF technology at large, and will enable us to keep flying with our net-zero goals on track.”

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