Round was co-led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Eni Next, with participation from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and AP Ventures
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. February 9, 2021 – C-Zero Inc., a pioneer in natural gas decarbonization, announced today that it has raised $11.5 million in a Series A funding round co-led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Eni Next, with participation from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and AP Ventures. The funding will accelerate the first commercial-scale deployment of C-Zero’s drop-in decarbonization technology, which will allow industrial natural gas consumers to avoid producing CO2 in applications like electrical generation, process heating and the production of commodity chemicals like hydrogen and ammonia.
“We are excited to enter the next stage of the company’s growth with support from investors who share our desire to scale up a technology with the potential to decarbonize over a quarter of the world’s energy consumption,” said Zach Jones, CEO of C-Zero. “By converting natural gas to clean hydrogen, a molecule with enormous potential, we hope to be the bridge between existing natural gas infrastructure and a low carbon future.”
C-Zero’s technology, which was initially developed at the University of California, Santa Barbara, uses innovative thermocatalysis to split methane – the primary molecule in natural gas – into hydrogen and solid carbon in a process known as methane pyrolysis. The hydrogen can be used to help decarbonize a wide array of existing applications, including hydrogen production for fuel cell vehicles, while the carbon can be permanently sequestered. When renewable natural gas is used as the feedstock, C-Zero’s technology can even be carbon negative, effectively extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and permanently storing it in the form of high-density solid carbon.
“Over $100 billion of commodity hydrogen is produced annually,” said Carmichael Roberts, Breakthrough Energy Ventures. “Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of that production comes from a process called steam methane reforming, which also produces large quantities of CO2. Finding low cost, low emission methods of hydrogen production – such as the one C-Zero has created – will be critical to unlocking the molecule’s potential to decarbonize major segments of the agricultural, chemical, manufacturing and transportation sectors.”
The various methods of hydrogen production have recently been associated with different color codes for easy identification. Conventional production via steam methane reforming (SMR) is referred to as “gray hydrogen,” SMR with CO2 sequestration is referred to as “blue hydrogen” and hydrogen produced by splitting water via electrolysis is known as “green hydrogen.” Hydrogen produced via methane pyrolysis processes like C-Zero’s is increasingly being referred to as “turquoise hydrogen,” as it combines the benefits of both blue and green hydrogen by being low cost and low emissions, respectively.
“Methane pyrolysis is very interesting to us, as clean and low CO2 hydrogen can be produced with limited consumption of energy and no water usage. Scaling-up this process will potentially be an enormous advantage to produce hydrogen for energy or commodity chemical applications,” said a spokesperson from Eni Next.
“MHI is committed to expanding the hydrogen value chain from production to utilization by developing technologies such as hydrogen gas turbines and by partnering with innovative technology and solution providers such as C-Zero,” said Yoshihiro Shiraiwa, President and CEO of MHI America. “We believe this technology will lead to more solutions that help us and our customers achieve our decarbonization goals.”
"Methane pyrolysis offers an efficient pathway to producing low-emission and low-cost hydrogen," said Kevin Eggers, AP Ventures. “The low-cost turquoise hydrogen produced by C-Zero will have a material impact in reducing global CO2 emissions.’’
C-Zero is currently hiring in the Santa Barbara region. To learn more, visit www.czero.energy.
C-Zero is commercializing a proprietary process for transforming natural gas into clean hydrogen and a solid carbon co-product. For more information, visit www.czero.energy.
About Breakthrough Energy Ventures
Backed by many of the world’s top business leaders, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) invests in cutting-edge companies that will lead the world to net-zero emissions. BEV has more than $2 billion in committed capital to support bold entrepreneurs building companies that can significantly reduce emissions from agriculture, buildings, electricity, manufacturing, and transportation. BEV’s strategy links government-funded research and patient, risk-tolerant capital to bring transformative clean energy innovations to market as quickly as possible.
The first fund was created in 2016 as part of the Breakthrough Energy network of initiatives and entities, which include investment funds, non-profit and philanthropic programs, and policy efforts linked by a shared commitment to scale the technologies needed to address climate change and achieve a path to net zero emissions by 2050. Visit www.breakthroughenergy.org to learn more.
About Eni Next
Eni Next is the corporate venture capital arm of Eni, an energy company operating in 66 countries worldwide and employing around 32,000 people. Eni operates in oil and gas exploration, development and production, refining and marketing, trading and shipping, chemical, renewable energies and innovative solutions in circular economy. Its mission is inspired by the UN 2030 Agenda and these values are reflected in its business model, itself based on three pillars of long-term carbon neutrality, operational excellence and the creation of alliances for local development.
About Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is one of the world’s leading industrial firms with 80,000 group employees and annual consolidated revenues of around 38 billion U.S. dollars. For more than 130 years, the company has channeled big thinking into innovative and integrated solutions that move the world forward. MHI delivers innovative and integrated solutions across a wide range of industries from commercial aviation and transportation to power plants and gas turbines, and from machinery and infrastructure to integrated defense and space systems.
About AP Ventures
AP Ventures is headquartered in London and manages venture capital funds with a global mandate to invest in pioneering new technologies and businesses which aim to solve global challenges such as renewable energy integration, resource scarcity and rapidly changing demographics. The existing portfolio is focused on the hydrogen value chain and includes investments in Altergy Systems, ERGOSUP, Greyrock Energy, HPNow, HyET, Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies, Infinium, Insplorion, Plug Power, Starfire Energy and ZEG Power. AP Ventures is led by Andrew Hinkly (Managing Partner) and Kevin Eggers (Partner). Investors include Anglo-American Platinum, Impala Platinum, the Mirai Creation Fund, Mitsubishi Corporation, Plastic Omnium, the Public Investment Corporation and Sumitomo Corporation.