An Estonian cleantech startup raises €4.5 million for low-carbon industrial energy

Estonian cleantech startup Efenco has closed a total of €4.5 million in financing; the funds will be used for product engineering in lowering global CO2 emissions.

The financing round comprised of €1.3 million led by Ivo Remmelg for EstBAN Syndicate, and €3.2 million in grants from the EU’s European Innovation Council and Estonia’s Archimedes Foundation. 

According to the company, the funds will be used for product engineering, to integrate advanced materials ensuring durability, functionality and compliance. 

“The startup has already delivered 20% energy and carbon savings for a major utility company in Tallinn and has a further eight commercial pilot projects lined up. Its goal is to help remove 77 million tons of global CO2 emissions by 2033 – equivalent to 416Twh of new clean energy, or 40% of the EU industrial heat sector’s annual consumption,” the company announced in a statement.

“With net-zero carbon emissions an urgent necessity, over 140,000 TWh of energy are still generated from fossil fuels worldwide. Despite rapid advances in renewables, that’s still nearly 80% of global energy production,” according to Efenco. 

The company believes its solution can eventually improve the combustion efficiency of natural gas by up to 40% and of hydrogen by up to 75%.

Using waste heat to enhance efficiency

“Unlike all other plasma-assisted combustion technologies, in use in jet engines, for example, Efenco’s cold-plasma-assisted combustion technology does not require an external energy source. It uses waste heat generated by combustion to generate plasma and enhance reaction efficiency. The EU-patented technology was validated by scientists from the University of Tartu in 2016 and 2022 and has been financially supported by the EU’s Horizon programme.”

Efenco’s technology harnesses waste heat from chemical reactions and other heat sources to generate low-temperature plasma, using a range of self-powered vacuum nanoelectronic chips.

Efenco’s technology is inserted into otherwise unmodified combustion boilers. Conversion takes a few hours and can be applied across any industry that requires high-output energy generation. Besides steel and cement, other major opportunities include electricity generation, pulp and paper manufacturing, and ceramics production. Smaller scale boilers, including domestic heat boilers, are also a target in due course. 

The company calculates that its initial technology could be installed in the 30% of gas boilers being used in the EU for high temperature industrial process heat applications. Even at an 18% efficiency gain, this represents a potential 5% total reduction in the EU’s energy consumption and carbon emissions from natural gas combustion; a greater potential saving than from solar and wind combined, or nuclear. 

Based in Tallinn, Estonia, Efenco was co-founded by Kristjan Tiik, Aleksandr Nagornoy and Aleksander Vlassov. To date, it has raised €4.5 million, including EU-funded research grants and an equity commitment from the European Investment Bank.

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