The transportation sector, including maritime, air, and road, is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, accounting for 37% of global CO2 emissions. This makes it one of the leading contributors to global warming. In response, startups are building alternative sources to fossil fuels that are environmentally friendly and do not threaten the food supply. Nicholas Ball, CEO of XFuel, believes his company’s technology can help reduce transportation carbon emissions by converting organic waste into fuel.
XFuel (HAX 2022) began as a collaboration between Thomas Guenther and Jose Antonio Perez. The founders were focused on a key tenet of today’s biofuel industry: traditional biofuels are derived from food crops, like corn, meaning they compete directly with the food supply. Having realized the importance of new and accessible feedstocks, they turned their focus to research and development.
XFuel’s resulting invention was a reactor that can create high quality fuel with less energy consumption and lower costs by transforming waste from sustainable sources into high value biofuel. Guenther’s design and testing process also resulted in the invention of a novel desulphurization technology that could scale globally without dependence on hydrogen treatments.
A key differentiator of the technology is also its modularity. Transporting feedstock around the world to large industrial sites for processing would be capital and carbon intensive, so XFuel designed reactors that could be constructed near the site of waste production. This closed-loop, high-efficiency cycle makes XFuel’s products up to 85% less GHG intensive than traditional fuels.
Ball was appointed CEO of XFuel in 2021, with a mission to drive the commercialization of the technology and change how liquid fuels were produced at scale. In July 2022, the Dublin-based renewable energy provider raised €8.2M from German venture capital firm AENU, along with participation from Union Square Ventures and SOSV’s HAX. This investment enabled XFuel to develop commercial-scale pilot plants to realize their vision for low-cost, low-carbon, drop-in fuel.
XFuel has already secured feedstock for four projects with a leading waste wood consolidator in the UK and Ireland. One of its first pilot plants, located in Spain, can already produce 150 liters/hour of fuel.
“Our mission is to decarbonize the transportation industry and meet this urgent need, and this is why we are thrilled to have received such a vote of confidence from our investors,” said Ball in a release. “Our low-carbon drop-in fuels and low-cost, modular biorefining technologies will play a major role in global decarbonization, across the automotive and haulage sectors as well as in hard-to-decarbonize industries like shipping and aviation. This investment will allow us to set the foundations for the commercialization of our company and the rapid scaling of our technology.”
There is a huge need for ready to implement technologies that can scale to meet the climate crisis, and XFuel is replacing fossil fuels by removing waste from the environment, which would otherwise be sent to landfill.