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Exclusive: Etch raises $7.5M for ultra-cheap natural gas decarbonization

Jul 25, 2023
Illustration of a pipeline surrounded by money elements and abstract shapes.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Baltimore startup Etch closed a $7.5 million seed round to build what it says are efficient systems to decarbonize natural gas, the company tells Axios.

Why it matters: Etch says its chemical breakthrough allows factories and power plants to keep using natural gas and eliminate emissions at the same time.

Catch up fast: The main ingredient in natural gas is methane, which consists of carbon and hydrogen.

  • A number of startups are working to split heat-trapping carbon molecules from clean-burning hydrogen.
  • Many rely on heat, a process that demands a lot of energy, which drives up costs.
  • The ultimate goal: slash heat-trapping carbon pollution while churning out lucrative clean-burning hydrogen.

Driving the news: Etch says it discovered a chemical reaction that allows it to break apart the carbon and hydrogen molecules with far less heat.

  • It's also a "closed loop" system, which means the catalyst that drives the reaction can be regenerated indefinitely.
  • "We think we’re going to have the lowest price-point of hydrogen from any technology that’s out there," chief technology officer Jonah Erlebacher tells Axios.

Context: Hydrogen prices last fall climbed past $16 per kilogram. The Department of Energy's "Hydrogen Shot" program aims to drop production costs for clean hydrogen to $1 per kilogram.

  • "We think we’re going to meet or exceed the DOE targets," Erlebacher says.

Details: Emerald Development Managers led the all-equity round. It closed at the end of 2022.

  • Emerald founder Neil Cohen is joining Etch's three-member board. Etch holds the other two seats.

Of note: Etch, a Johns Hopkins spin-out, received funding from the DOE's competitive ARPA-E program in 2018.

  • Its tech will qualify for new hydrogen incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act.

What's next: Etch plans to begin deploying its trailer-sized, 50-metric ton systems this year at a handful of factories and power plants that use natural gas.

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