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Metafuels scores $8M seed funding to propel sustainable aviation fuel innovation


The aviation industry is responsible for around 800 million tons of CO2 emissions each year. So, it is no wonder that this is an area of extreme interest for those wanting to do more to protect the environment and curb climate change. Some companies have set out to become the “Tesla” of the skies by developing new aircraft that are solely powered by electricity, while others concentrate on new alternative fuels. However, the transition to any new technology that can “clean up” aviation has significant hurdles to overcome.

Metafuels, a Zurich-based climate tech startup, believes it has developed a product that can help progress aviation fuel technology. They have just announced a successful $8 million seed funding round led by prominent climate venture capitalists Energy Impact Partners (EIP) and Contrarian Ventures.

Revolutionising aviation

While electric aircraft will have many of the same advantages of EVs, they are likely to only find feasibility on short-haul flights and private aircraft. Hence, many companies believe the most reasonable option for a greener aviation industry is sustainable aviation fuel [SAF]. Several SAFs have been brought to market in recent years but making them affordable and producing them efficiently at commercial scale has proven challenging.

Founded by Saurabh Kapoor, Leigh Hackett and Ulrich Koss in 2021, Metafuels is a Zurich-based aviation tech startup dedicated to developing and deploying sustainable fuel technologies, initially focusing on synthetic aviation fuel. Their vision involves decarbonising the aviation sector without requiring costly aircraft re-engineering or infrastructure modifications.

Unlike electric or hydrogen propulsion, which require complex aircraft redesigns or infrastructure changes, Metafuels’ drop-in SAF doesn’t require any alterations to existing aircraft or aviation infrastructure.

Path to sustainability

Aviation contributes over 2% of global CO2 emissions. Metafuels say their technology has the potential to slash total life cycle emissions of the average long-haul aircraft by up to 90%, a significant step toward reducing the industry’s carbon footprint.

The Swiss company’s goal is not to reduce air travel but to mitigate its negative environmental impact, enabling people to explore cultures and participate in a globalised economy sustainably.

Metafuels aims to overcome efficiency issues with its innovative approach, producing Aerobrew, a sustainable jet fuel blend made using a two-step process that turns green methanol into kerosene. 

“Jet fuel is a special fuel,” says Leigh Hackett, Chairman, co-founder and CCO at Metafuels. “It has to operate in very varied environments from take-off 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.”

“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,” says Saurabh Kapoor. “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.”

“Metafuels’ expertise and engineering offer a pivotal opportunity to revolutionize sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) technology at a crucial time,” says 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, says: “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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