Koloma, a startup aiming to lead a new industry based on extracting carbon-free hydrogen from natural underground deposits, just raised $245.7 million in a financing round that positions it to stay ahead of competitors in this developing clean energy field.
The company disclosed the new funds in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Feb. 9, a day after winning a research grant from a U.S. Energy Department program to refine methods to stimulate underground hydrogen production and extract the elemental fuel. The round was led by Khosla Ventures and included investment from Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund and United Airline’s Sustainable Flight Fund. They join previous cleantech backers including Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Energy Impact Partners, boosting Koloma’s total funding to more than $300 million.
“We’re grateful to be backed by some of the world’s leading companies and investors in our recent fundraise,” Paul Harraka, Koloma’s chief business officer and cofounder, told .
The closely held company, brought out of stealth by last year, is commercializing extensive research by Ohio State University geologist Tom Darrah, its CTO and cofounder. He’s spent years studying where hydrogen pockets are most likely to be found and ways that techniques developed by the oil and gas industry can be leveraged to get the resource.
(For more on Koloma, see Bill Gates Is Backing A Secret Startup Drilling For Limitless Clean Energy)
Awareness that hydrogen is generated naturally in underground pockets across the U.S. and globally has grown quickly in the past year. A “gusher” of the gas was just found in a mine in Albania, Science reported on Feb. 8.
“It’s on every continent. The scale of how much there is profound,” Darrah said in a 2023 interview. His research lab for Koloma recently moved into OSU’s $49.3 million Energy Advancement and Innovation Center in Columbus that opened in December 2023.
Hydrogen’s flexibility as an energy source — it can be used to cut carbon emissions, power vehicles and store or make electricity — makes it highly compelling. Currently, most industrial hydrogen is made by splitting it from natural gas with steam, a process that emits carbon dioxide. A new industry for carbon-free “green” hydrogen, using electrolysis to extract the element from water with electricity, is promising but a more costly option. Geologic hydrogen’s advocates think it will prove to be the cheapest form, given the ability to leverage long-established energy-drilling techniques.
“There’s a lot more awareness that this opportunity exists out in the world and we’re seeing more groups following in (Koloma’s) footsteps,” said Andy Lubershane, head of research for Energy Impact Partners, a top investor in Koloma. “We think they’re out front and have some unique advantages.”
Proposed rules from the Treasury Department for a new credit that will provide up to $3 per kilogram of clean, zero-carbon hydrogen include the geologic form, in addition to green hydrogen.
Koloma’s new funding was reported earlier by Axios.