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Exclusive: Khosla leads $245M geologic hydrogen deal

Koloma co-founder Tom Darrah holding up iron-rich rocks

Koloma co-founder Tom Darrah holds up iron-rich rocks in the company's lab space at Ohio State University. Photo courtesy of Koloma

Geologic hydrogen startup Koloma closed a Series B round of $245 million led by Khosla Ventures and including Amazon's climate fund and United's VC arm, the company tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: The technology could help unlock naturally occurring underground hydrogen as a new source of clean power.

How it works: Created when iron-rich rocks come into contact with water, naturally occurring deposits of hydrogen have been found all over the world, often when some of the hydrogen leaks out to the Earth's surface.

The big picture: Green hydrogen, from any source, is having a moment, as incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act become available.

  • In addition to the support of the IRA, the DOE's ARPA-E program, which backs moonshot projects, on Thursday morning announced $20 million to help geologic hydrogen exploration.
  • There's a small but growing contingent of companies that are trying to explore and harness naturally occurring hydrogen.

Zoom in: The 2½-year-old company was co-founded by Pete Johnson, who previously co-founded Monolith, entrepreneur Paul Harraka and Tom Darrah, a professor at Ohio State University, who spent close to two decades researching geologic hydrogen.

  • Prior investors in the company include Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Energy Impact Partners, Evōk Innovations, Prelude Ventures and Piva Capital.
  • United Airlines Ventures is keen to get access to green hydrogen as a feedstock for sustainable aviation fuel.

What's next: Koloma will develop technologies like analytics, AI and sensors, and deploy the technologies to explore for hydrogen deposits in the U.S.

  • "Exploration is mostly a data game," says Koloma CEO Johnson.
  • The Denver-based startup is also opening up a lab at Ohio State University's Energy Advancement Innovation Center.
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