Investment Notes: Cetogenix – Eliminating organic waste and supporting the energy transition

July 12, 2022

Pacific Channel is excited to be leading a $4.5m seed round into Rotorua-based clean-tech company Cetogenix.

Using technology originally developed at Crown Research Institute Scion, Cetogenix is developing technology that boosts the production of ‘renewable’ natural gas from an existing process used to break down organic waste called anaerobic digestion. With increasing regulation and consumer pressure making unnecessary waste and emissions untenable, this technology enables significant commercial opportunities in stimulating a ‘circular economy’ and furthering global decarbonisation and waste minimization.

The challenge with anaerobic digestion is that it is inefficient in gas production and generates a waste product called digestate that has to be disposed of. Cetogenix’s initial product, Ceto-Boost, processes the organic waste so that an additional 40% renewable natural gas is produced, which fundamentally alters the economics of anaerobic digestion. Additionally, Ceto-Boost allows the complete processing of digestate into useful products such as bio-fertilisers and bio-plastics, which can be on-sold into other industries.

Having validated their system in Rotorua, Cetogenix are now beginning to implement their technology into a product and showcase a pathway to full scalability.

Yes gas? No gas?

For those who have been following the implications of the events in Ukraine, it has become abundantly clear the impact the war has had on our precarious renewable energy transition. Despite the availability of a wide range of renewable energy projects coming online, it is widely acknowledged that our energy transition will still be dependent on the role of natural gas. Demand for natural gas is expected to continue increasing, driven by (1) ongoing industrialisation in economies in Africa, India and China, (2) a preference to use natural gas over dirtier fossil fuels such as coal and oil and, (3) an ongoing reliance on gas in many industrial and thermal processes.

Fossil-derived natural gas is environmentally unfriendly and represents a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions. Its extraction is also plagued by supply chain issues now clearly impacting world markets. So while there is a need for natural gas, there is also a need to identify sources of gas that are not as extractive and environmentally unfriendly.

With the current global geo-political instability, there has recently been a seismic shift in the energy sector towards ‘energy independence’, including securing sustainable and stable supply chains for natural gas. There is an increasing focus from large nations in controlling this supply domestically without relying on global trade.

The competitive advantage – zero waste ‘renewable’ gas

New technologies, such as that being developed by Cetogenix, can be applied at a localised scale to allow for controlled production of a ‘renewable’ natural gas from local organic waste. This is where Cetogenix comes into its own. Cetogenix’s technology acts as a modular add-on to existing anaerobic digestion plants and allows them to “recycle” their digestate back through the process so that there is no waste left over – something which is not currently possible. Ultimately, Cetogenix enables the processing of all of the organic waste to usable products.

Our investment

 There is a lot to love about Cetogenix - it’s an excellent example of how new biotechnology can enabling the building of an attractive business while also accelerating decarbonisation goals. We were attracted to make an investment for several reasons:

  • With a top quality experienced team made up Dr Trevor Stuthridge, Dr Daniel Gapes, Alex Stuthridge and Robert Lei, the team brings the best of science excellence, commercialisation expertise and most importantly, a passion for the mission.
  • The overall proposition of the technology and the ability to completely eliminate digestate waste is a game changer and has the potential to revolutionise the anaerobic digestion industry and positively change the cost economics of renewable natural gas.
  • The timing couldn’t be better with the convergence of substantial drivers towards decarbonisation and the disruption caused by the Ukraine war.
  • Finally, it is hard to look past the mission of Cetogenix. With a vision to tackle climate change at scale, this is a company that we are proud to back.

 

Dr Ashwath Sundaresan and Lachlan Nixon