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Bill Gates-backed ‘green iron company’ Electra steps into the spotlight with $85M raise

BOULDER — Electra, a Boulder-based clean-tech company that claims to have developed a process for making iron and steel using less energy and with more-abundant materials, has raised $85 million, a fundraising round led by Bill Gates-founded Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

The investment will allow the company to continue honing its process that “produce[s] low-temperature iron (LTI) from commercial and low-grade ores using zero-carbon intermittent electricity,” Electra said Friday in a news release.

The production method is designed to be less expensive and less detrimental to the environment than conventional iron and steel-making processes, Electra said. 

“Decarbonizing ironmaking is essential for a zero carbon future and an unparalleled trillion-dollar market opportunity,” Breakthrough Energy Ventures investment lead Carmichael Roberts said in the release. “Electrifying cost-effective ironmaking without carbon emissions is a paradigm shift in how steel has been made for centuries by burning fossil fuels. We’re proud to have supported Electra in this critical mission from its founding.”

The company, founded in 2020 and registered with Colorado Secretary of State’s office as Electrasteel Inc., has about 50 employees and is headquartered on Lookout Road. 

It’s there where next year Electra plans to complete the buildout of its green-iron refining pilot plant.

“Electra plans to forge additional partnerships across the entire steel value chain,” the company said in a news release. “Iron ore companies, steel companies, and any company that relies on steel are invited to collaborate with Electra to accelerate the transition to green steel.”

There is some mystery surrounding Electra, particularly related to specifics about the technological and chemical processes it uses to create its iron. 

“Electra is now exiting stealth mode, and it refuses to publicly divulge its exact process,” Bloomberg reporter Akshat Rathi wrote in an Electra profile published this week. “However, [Electra founders Sandeep] Nijhawan and [Quoc] Pham shared enough details for independent experts to confirm that what the company claims to do is technologically feasible.”

The company, which did not make representatives available for comment Friday, has evolved quietly over the past couple of years, making headlines only briefly last summer when BizWest reported a $28.25 million fundraising round Electra disclosed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Nijihawan, Electra’s CEO, formerly served as president of AquaHydrex Inc., based in Louisville, according to his LinkedIn profile, and worked as operating partner with True North Venture Partners, a venture-capital and private-equity firm based in Chicago. He also served as founder and president of Louisville-based Staq Energy Inc. from May 2016 to December 2019.

Source: BizWest

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