TechEnergy Ventures has made its two first investments in the hydrogen and ultradeep geothermal segments
The corporate venture fund is part of Tecpetrol's Energy Transition Unit, and it invests in early-stage to-growth technology companies that can accelerate the decarbonization while delivering Energy Transition business development opportunities. After 3 months of launching, the Fund has made its first investments.
Just three months after its launching, the TechEnergy Ventures' team has generated significant momentum by identifying pursuable opportunities in some of the most challenging but critical Hard-Tech Energy Transition verticals. In its first 90 days, over 100 opportunities have been reviewed, and the team has begun collaboration with over 30 complementary corporate venture capitals and VCs as well as Universities. The Fund was well received and it is steadily working alongside this thriving ecosystem.
The energy transition requires investments
While the Techint Group continues to build programs aimed at clean energy initiatives, including project development and project financing, which are being implemented with in-house expertise, TechEnergy Ventures has moved forward by establishing partnerships with international, regional, and local stakeholders to gain from their experience from best practices globally.
In this regard, they have first invested in a company that offers effective energy-transition solutions. Versogen is a USA-based company that specializes in developing polymeric membranes –a key component in several electrolyzers’ technologies- which will extend this essential knowledge to the development of a new generation of electrolyzers based on a patented Anion Exchange Membranes (AEM).
“This new development today at TRL 4, would combine the best features of the two technologies currently dominating the market, Alkaline and PEM, while reducing their technical drawbacks, OPEX and CAPEX. A low-cost Hydrogen produced by these new electrolyzers powered by renewable electricity (Green Hydrogen) can have a relevant role in the decarbonization of specific segments such as Heavy Duty transport, Ammonia production and E-Fuels. Dr Yushan Yan, a world expert on Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and Versogen's co-founder, is the Anion Exchange Membrane (AEM) developer”, comments Marco Tivelli, Chief Technology Officer in Tecetrol’s Energy Transition Division.
Tivelli adds: “we believe Hydrogen will play a role in these applications, but we also see other production routes which have very attractive characteristics and that need to be followed very closely (i.e. Methane Pyrolysis)”.
They have also just closed another investment in Quaise Energy, an energy company developing and commercializing a novel drilling technology called “Millimeter-Wave Drilling”(MMW), intended to efficiently reach extreme depths (10 to 20 KM). These wells would then be used to transport high-grade steam to the surface for electricity production. The technology would allow harnessing geothermal energy around the globe, overcoming the geographic constraints imposed by the variable earth thermal gradients, a factor that is limiting this energy source today. The company was founded in 2018 as an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) spin-off the Plasma Fusion Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tivelli details that “experts consider that their initiative ‘Geothermal Anywhere’ has the potential of becoming the net zero-emissions silver bullet. While reports contemplate a relevant role for Ultra Deep Geothermal, this disruptive Millimeter-Wave Drilling technology might unlock the most underrated and overlooked clean energy source; the earth's 500C degree endless radiator sitting between 7-10km below the earth's surface.” Quaise Tech is at TRL 5, the challenges ahead are big, but the team and the development program they have set up is probably the best in class for this development.
In the meantime, TechEnergy Ventures continues to seek new investment opportunities. “The quality of the entrepreneurs and their determination to become a critical part of the solution is central to this challenging path toward Net Zero emissions”, details Alejandro Sole, head of the Fund in the Energy Transition Division.
TechEnergy Ventures is also looking to build strong corporate partnerships. As Sole explains: “We have recently announced a collaboration with Baker Hughes, one of the global leaders in energy technologies, so they can collaborate in identifying CO2 utilization and H2 transportation technologies. We have also signed an MOU with Enel Innovation, a global leader in Renewables that has launched their NextHy program, a dedicated hydrogen lab in Sicily focused on testing and optimizing technoliges.
Meanwhile, as technological development profoundly relies on the generation of new knowledge, TechEnergy Ventures has established partnerships with several universities. It recently expanded its collaboration with PoliHub and, an innovation park & start-up accelerator located in Italy. It has also become a member of the Deep Tech Alliance, including the most prominent engineering schools in Europe.
Sole shares that “as TechEnergy Ventures builds on the value proposition of the fund towards startups, the need for technologies to Pilot is crucial. In this sense, the Techint Group is collaborating with its industrial companies to identify the key opportunities to test and implement pilot programs that help the de-risking of the technologies, while the Group as well accesses the most promising and competitive decarbonization options”.
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