Years in the alternative energy arena have taught us that most likely the big breakthroughs will arrive not from a brand new technology, but in making an existing phenomenon efficient and cost-effective enough to break through to the market. This is what NewCO2Fuels (NCF) is banking on.
The company was recently named winner in the corporate energy category of the 2014 World Technology Awards. This prestigious international award selects the most innovative companies in the world, and NCF was the sole winner in the corporate energy category, joining the competition’s big name winners such as Elon Musk and Waze.
We interviewed NCF CEO David Banitt right after the end of Israel Energy Week, to hear the latest about where the company is going:
“The acceptable Internal Rate of Return (IRR) in the energy industry is around 9%,” says Banitt. “NCF’s technology will enable an IRR of 40-45% (leveraged) and this is a breakthrough in the industry.”
NCF was founded in 2011 and has received US$9M in funding so far, led by Australian companies ErdiFuels and Green Earth Energy. The technology was invented by Professor Jacob Karni at his laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Science. Prof. Karni and his team conducted eight years of research on high-temperature CO2 dissociation and showed that the technology has the ability to convert CO2 into fuels. NCF’s team works in collaboration with Prof. Karni’s team to develop and build an economically viable CO2-to-fuel reactor using high temperature heat as the energy to drive the process. Such heat is abundant in the steel, gasification, glass and ceramic industries and can be produced from solar radiation as well. The syngas created by the reactor is a precursor for a large variety of high value chemicals and fuels and particularly can be converted to methanol at the end of the process.
“We currently have two small scale prototypes working well in our labs. We are designing our demonstration pilot reactor , which will have the capacity to create 100 tons of syngas or methanol a year,” says Banitt. This industrial capacity prototype is scheduled to be ready in 18 months, with commercial sales beginning three years from now. Meeting these milestones will require an additional investment of around $20M in the company.
NCF has been cooperating with Israel NewTech, the government program working out of the Ministry of Economy to promote and support Israel’s cleantech industries, to access potential investors. “The cooperation with Israel NewTech has created relevant contacts for NCF. They set up quality one-on-one investor meetings for us at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco and Stockholm earlier this year, and recently again at a cleantech event in Hong Kong,” explains Banitt.
Oded Distel, head of Israel NewTech, is excited about NCF’s technology: “NCF is one of the companies doing very promising work on alternative energy coming from Israel. As we see in the global market, the emphasis on cost effectiveness is the key to creating relevant alternative energy solutions, like that being developed by NCF.” Distel is aware of the challenge presented by the relatively long lead times required to developing such technologies. “Investors realize that energy is far from the world of apps, where an investment today can bring returns in a year. Cleantech investors are in for the long haul, but we believe the patience will be worth it,” concludes Distel.
NCF was one of the companies participating in Israel Energy Week, which concentrated numerous international events in Israel, including the Eilat Eilot event and The Fuel Choices Summit.