Starfire Energy featured on Net Zero Cities panel

Funding for clean-energy startups and innovators hasn’t yet reached the levels needed for Front Range cities to achieve net-zero status. Despite the creation of new grant programs, the emergence of Green Banks, creative fundraising methods by companies and institutional investors beginning to enter the market, much work still needs to be done.

That was the message from the Funding Innovation panel at BizWest’s Net Zero Cities summit Wednesday morning, moderated by Quinn Antus, executive director of the Signal Tech Coalition.

“The current scale of clean-energy investment for well-understood technologies is falling well short of what is needed to combat climate change,” said panelist Paul Scharfenberger, executive director of the Colorado Clean Energy Fund.

That shortfall manifests itself in numerous ways. Panelist John LoPorto, president and CEO of Starfire Energy, said his company has little difficulty getting project or research and development investments from markets in Asia and the European Union, but that investments from the U.S. are much harder to come by.

“There’s really no challenge securing capital in markets committed to [clean-energy investment] at a governmental level,” LoPorto said. “In the domestic market, it’s not really that easy. There’s a feeling of uncertainty every four years that a new administration could change their view on clean energy.”

Another issue is that small clean-energy businesses, as well as small and rural clean-energy projects, are often overlooked by investors, Scharfenberger said. Small businesses don’t always have the best credit. Some local clean-energy products don’t have the most attractive potential return. They can also be expensive to underwrite. The payback periods for clean-energy projects are often longer than the typical loan term. These are all market barriers, Scharfenberger said, that limit private capital flows into clean-energy projects that could make a big difference on the local level.

Green Banks such as the Colorado Clean Energy Fund are one potential solution to this. They exist to direct capital to precisely those projects Scharfenberger said investors sometimes avoid. Green Banks provide services such as credit enhancement, loan-loss reserves, aggregation of resources for smaller projects, technical assistance and co-investment in projects with lower potential return.

Green Banks also leverage and recycle capital. In less than 10 years, Scharfenberger said, 15 Green Banks in the U.S. have generated $7 billion in investments. Twenty-two more are in development. A 2019 white paper by the Coalition for Green Capital stated that a national Green Bank with $35 billion in capital would be able to leverage $1 trillion.

“We can do better when it comes to lending to a wider portion of our population,” Scharfenberger said.

State grants could also be an attractive option to local businesses and smaller projects. Panelist Diego Lopez, executive director of Northern Colorado Clean Cities, said that the state is launching two new grant programs this month: Alt Fuels Colorado on May 3 and Charge Ahead Colorado on May 17. The former program will help fund the purchase of electric fleet vehicles; the latter will go toward fleet charging stations or public charging stations at businesses, Lopez said.

For larger companies that operate on a global scale, Starfire Energy provides an innovative example in how to secure funding. The company created a carbon-free method of hydrogen storage and transport and manufactures its technology in a scalable, modular, repeatable way. LoPorto said that because of the capital-intensive nature of its business, Starfire intentionally sought out large, international institutional investors, then fostered relationships among its investors and integrated them into their production chain.

Two things would bolster the market further, LoPorto said: big energy companies investing more aggressively in clean energy, and long-term policy guidance from the federal government.

On the former count, institutional investors and big energy companies are starting to move into clean energy in bigger numbers, said panelist Ramsay Huntley, sustainable finance strategist for Wells Fargo. Huntley said that energy companies such as Xcel are beginning to lead the transition to net-zero, and that big banks are starting to conceptualize what it would take to finance the infrastructure to deliver clean power.

“What we see with investors writ large is a real interest in moving into the [clean energy] space,” Huntley said. “When we see green bonds issued, there is higher investor interest in those, especially from private equity, institutional investors and sovereign wealth.”

© 2021 BizWest Media LLC

Starfire Energy announces closing of major funding round to produce carbon free ammonia and hydrogen solutions

Denver, Colorado – April 8, 2021 – Starfire Energy, a developer of modular chemical plants for the production of carbon-free ammonia and carbon-free hydrogen, today announced the close of a major funding round. The investment round was led by AP Ventures, a significant investor in breakthrough hydrogen technologies, and included New Energy Technologies, Chevron Technology Ventures, Osaka Gas USA, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Proceeds will be used to advance the development of commercial scale applications to decarbonize ammonia production and unlock its potential as a zero-carbon energy carrier.

Ammonia is a promising energy carrier with an energy density comparable to fossil fuels and significantly higher than Li-ion batteries, compressed, or liquid hydrogen. It can be inexpensively and easily stored and transported, leveraging established infrastructure and shipping networks, and is regulated by well-developed codes and standards. Ammonia can be used directly as a fuel or it can be ‘cracked’, and its hydrogen harvested to provide a stable and efficient means of hydrogen storage and transportation.

Conventional ammonia production has a significant carbon footprint. Traditionally made from natural gas, the production of ammonia emits two tonnes of carbon dioxide for every one tonne of ammonia produced. Starfire Energy leverages a patented catalysis technology that allows for the synthesis and cracking of carbon-free ammonia and hydrogen-leveraging renewable energy sources.

Starfire Energy’s ‘Rapid Ramp NH3’ ammonia synthesis technology produces zero carbon ammonia using only renewable energy, air, and water as inputs. The modular solution is sized to connect directly with renewable energy production, providing a scalable, distributed source of zero carbon ammonia. The company has also developed their Prometheus Carbon-free Fire, a system to crack ammonia back into hydrogen providing an efficient means of green hydrogen storage and transportation.

Starfire’s plants will provide carbon-free fuel to power utility gas turbines, large-scale ships, process heat for industries like steel and cement and fuel cell vehicles.  The modular plants are mass-produced and assembled onsite for maximum reliability and quality along with low and repeatable costs.

“We are very excited to be partnering with such notable global partners as we continue to scale up our systems and operations.”, said John LoPorto, Chief Executive Officer of Starfire Energy.

“We are excited to be leading this pivotal round for Starfire Energy,” said Andrew Hinkly, Managing Partner at AP Ventures. “As an established investor in the hydrogen industry, we understand the critical role green ammonia will play in decarbonizing chemical and industry value chains. Starfire’s modular synthesis and cracking technology is uniquely positioned, and we look forward to supporting the business in its development and commercialisation. We are also pleased to collaborate with Starfire on system deployments in South Africa, where there is a promising emerging market for innovative zero carbon technologies,” said Mr. Hinkly.

“NET sees Starfire Energy as the most advanced green ammonia production candidate in the world. Our role is to unlock the value chain by accelerating green ammonia production projects, and Starfire is key to that. As a key commercialization partner we’re excited to take Starfire’s innovative technology out of the lab and get it into projects and to scale as quickly as possible. This is important technology for the world because it will help us reach net zero faster. We look forward to seeing Starfire as a core critical part of the green ammonia production sector right around the world, as green fuels become central in the new energy landscape” said Greg Stace, Director of Technology at New Energy Technologies.

“Our investment in Starfire Energy gives us visibility into green hydrogen’s potential to improve the way ammonia is produced, distributed, and consumed,” said Barbara Burger, Vice President, Innovation and President of Technology Ventures at Chevron. “This is the first investment from our new $300 million Future Energy Fund II, which will focus on industrial decarbonization, emerging mobility, energy decentralization, and the growing circular carbon economy.”

“MHI views clean ammonia as an important new energy source for fuel use and hydrogen carriers and we are committed to expanding the hydrogen and ammonia value chain from production to utilization by developing technologies such as the hydrogen and ammonia gas turbine,” said Ricky Sakai, Vice President of new business development at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America. “We are also eager to partner innovative technology and solution providers and have confidence in Starfire Energy’s technology to create distributed ammonia production solutions that help industries, and our customers achieve decarbonization goals.”

“Osaka Gas USA has an ongoing initiative to identify and develop new technologies that are key to decarbonization and believes that green ammonia is a promising option. We see how Starfire’s technology would accelerate efficient production of Green Ammonia to support the realization of carbon neutrality. Through collaboration with Starfire Energy, we continue to advance our commitment to decarbonization” said Sei Tamada, Senior Vice President at OGUSA.

About AP Ventures:

AP Ventures is headquartered in London and manages venture capital funds with a global mandate to invest in pioneering new technologies and businesses which aim to solve global challenges such as renewable energy integration, resource scarcity and a growing population. The existing portfolio is focused on the hydrogen value chain and includes investments in Altergy Systems, C-Zero, ERGOSUP, Greyrock Energy, HPNow, Hydrogen Refueling Solutions, HyET, Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies, Hystar, Infinium, Insplorion, Plug Power, and ZEG Power. AP Ventures is led by Andrew Hinkly (Managing Partner) and Kevin Eggers (Partner). Investors include Anglo-American Platinum, Impala Platinum, the Mirai Creation Fund, Mitsubishi Corporation, Plastic Omnium, the Public Investment Corporation and Sumitomo Corporation.

About Chevron Technology Ventures:

Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV) pursues and invests in externally developed technologies and new business solutions that have the potential to enhance the way Chevron produces and delivers affordable, reliable, and ever-cleaner energy. For more information, visit

About New Energy Technologies:

New Energy Technology brings new green fuel technologies to market. NET focuses on emerging technology for green fuel production and green ammonia applications across the energy sector.  NET works with technology innovators, providing finance and commercialization to achieve global scaling.  

About Osaka Gas USA:

Osaka Gas USA Corporation (“OGUSA”), a wholly owned subsidiary of Osaka Gas Co., Ltd. (“Osaka Gas”), was formed to expand Osaka Gas’ presence in the United States and beyond. Downstream investments (Energy Infrastructure) since 2004, formerly under Osaka Gas Energy America, and upstream investments (mainly Exploration and Production) since 2012, formerly under Osaka Gas Resources America, now comprise OGUSA’s asset base and include IPP development and investment, Oil and gas development, Natural gas liquefaction, LNG exportation and Natural gas trading. As an experienced strategic investor in the energy sector, we are looking to grow into a leading energy company in North America.

About Mitsubishi Heavy Industries:

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Group is one of the world’s leading industrial groups, spanning energy, logistics & infrastructure, industrial machinery, aerospace and defense. MHI Group combines cutting-edge technology with deep experience to deliver innovative, integrated solutions that help to realize a carbon neutral world, improve the quality of life and ensure a safer world.