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Introducing the Cypriot startup InoMob

If the total quantity of biogas produced today in Cyprus was upgraded to biomethane, it could fuel the entire national public transport fleet with renewable energy,” says Sotiris Petrakides, who founded the cleantech startup InoMob in 2017.

It has developed a proprietary technology designed to produce and disseminate natural renewable gas (RNG), otherwise known as biomethane. In a decade that, in part, will be defined by the growing urgency to cut carbon emissions, InoMob is poised to take centre stage in the quest to find alternatives to the fossil fuels that dominate Cyprus’ energy mix. Against this backdrop, biomethane’s promise lies in its carbon-negative credentials; it has a net effect of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere rather than adding to it.

Biomethane is produced by the anaerobic digestion of organic waste; in plain English, imagine a mechanical stomach digesting organic waste to produce biogas. The resulting biogas comprises 60% methane and 40% carbon dioxide, including negligible traces of other gases. Through a process called biogas upgrading, carbon dioxide and other impurities are removed, leaving behind a pure stream of methane. InoMob is targeting animal waste for its feedstock, with its inaugural production unit installed at one of Limassol’s largest pig farms, capable of producing 1,000,000 litres of diesel-equivalent energy annually.

By focusing on animal waste, the startup exploits an often-underutilised resource, motivating sustainability practices in the traditional agricultural sector. As Petrakides astutely observes, urging farmers to shoulder the responsibility for biogas production would have inevitably elicited raised eyebrows and exasperated sighs as the lofty ideal of sustainability collided with the pragmatism of agricultural economics. Nonetheless, to address the logistical challenges of distributing green fuel on an island with no related infrastructure, InoMob plans to strategically install mobile biogas upgrading units in individual farms and distribute it accordingly to its clients, circumventing the need to impose a rigid refuelling network on them.

When it comes to renewable fuels vying for a slice of the same market, production costs are a ubiquitous constraint, which invariably raise prices. As Petrakides points out, what sets biomethane apart is its cost-competitiveness; it is a renewable fuel that not only fulfils environmental aspirations but does so without imposing undue financial burdens.

InoMob has positioned itself to address the needs of the transport sector. A glance at the updated Cyprus National Energy and Climate Plan shows that road transport devours some 600,000 kilotons of oil equivalent, which translates into 700,000 litres of diesel (as far as the energy consumed is concerned). In a world where failure to meet carbon reduction targets means eyewatering fines, these numbers beckon alternative fuel solutions. Adding another layer of intrigue, in the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, biofuels like RNG count twice their energy value when determining national targets for renewable energy penetration in the transport sector’s final energy mix. And, as the EU continues to tighten the regulatory noose around carbon emissions by integrating transportation into the Emissions Trading System, Petrakides believes that InoMob can become one of the catalysts for steering the country toward greener and cheaper pastures.

Using biomethane requires the retrofitting of diesel engines but Petrakides notes that companies will see a tangible return on their investment in three years. The startup has contracts in the pipeline with local fleet companies and it is also working on different applications for biomethane, including EV supercharging stations and industrial heating burners. Another exciting project is a cold-ironing floating platform (powering vessels at berth and anchorage) backed by Petronav, a big player in ship management based in Limassol. Petrakides expects to roll out the new applications by September 2024. “I cannot see any other way today than domestically producing RNG for the transport sector – this is a solution for today, not for some distant future,” he stresses.

Founders: Dr. Sotiris Petrakides & Constantinos Pavlou (partner).

What is it?: An accredited cleantech, producing and distributing Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) via proprietary technology.

Stage: Series A.

What it aspires to be: A disruptive technology partner for RNG production, distribution and utilisation, allowing for exponential market growth based on proprietary technologies and services.

Funds received: €1,000,000 (bootstrapping and grants), €830,000 (seed investment).

This interview first appeared in the September edition of GOLD magazine. Click here to view it.

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