December 13, 2023 [EU-Startups]- Metafuels, a developer of groundbreaking technology for sustainable aviation fuel compatible with existing aircrafts, announced its first institutional funding round led by climate VCs Energy Impact Partners (EIP) and Contrarian Ventures.
The decarbonization of aviation is one of the greatest technological challenges we currently face. Major barriers facing electrification (which likely will only ever support short-haul travel), and hydrogen (which faces complications in logistics and aircraft design, and will not work for long-haul) mean that viable solutions for travel using these technologies are many years away from being go-to-market ready. In an industry where single aircraft are currently intended to have a lifespan of 30 years and cost around $100 million apiece, the cost of reframing fleets for hydrogen and e-aviation is economically impossible for most long-haul carriers.
There is however one option that has no such drawbacks: a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) that is a drop-in replacement for standard kerosene, which has the benefit of a drastically lower environmental impact both in production and use.
“Metafuels takes green methanol produced from renewable electricity and sustainable sources of carbon and—through a two-step process—turns it into jet fuel,” said Saurabh Kapoor, CEO and co-founder of Metafuels, who started the business with Leigh Hackett and Ulrich Koss in 2021. Since then the team has grown into a highly experienced team of specialists from diverse backgrounds—including commercial and project development working alongside a team of engineers and scientists. “We don’t want people to fly less, we want them to be able to do so more—to experience other cultures, and to play a role in a globalized economy—without there being a negative climate impact,” added Kapoor.
Metafuels focuses on sustainable aviation fuel made using renewable electricity (eSAF)—a further environmentally-refined version of what has emerged as the leading long-term strategy to decarbonize air travel. It does not require the re-engineering or re-purchase of planes—nor a redesign of the underlying fueling infrastructure which supports both commercial and cargo airlines, route planning, or the existing customer experience, all of which make it an attractive and versatile option.
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. But unlike their competitors in this space, Metafuels’ approach achieves the lowest cost of production through high efficiency and ultra-high yield of SAF. Similarly, the technology has high environmental performance—through an up to 90% reduction of life cycle emissions and not chipping away at food and feed supply chains.
The Zurich-based startup will use the proceeds from the funding round, involving respected investors EIP and Contrarian Ventures, to set up a pilot facility at the prestigious Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI)—with whom 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 H₂ can be generated from water electrolysis driven by renewable electricity, whilst 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’ expertise and engineering offer a pivotal opportunity to revolutionize sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) technology at a crucial time,” commented Ashwin Shashindranath, Partner at Energy Impact Partners. “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, added: “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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