• Friederike

07: Hydrocarbon - The Energy umpf as a big challenge to get green. Interview with Yair Reem.

Updated: Apr 20

Yair is a Partner at Extantia Capital, a climate-first VC fund focused on deep decarbonisation technologies. Extantia invests in exceptional climate-tech founders who build the next “Gigacorns”, companies that are ultimately capable of saving in excess of 1Gt of CO2 emissions per year and are also commercially viable with scalable business models.

Previously, Yair was Managing Director at Hasso Plattner Ventures and a cyber technology leader at Israel’s Unit 8200. Yair holds a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Technion/Israel, Executive MPA from Hertie/Germany, and AMP from Wharton/USA.

In this Episode, we will talk about Clean Tech 2.0, why hydrocarbons are having the biggest energy "umpf", and why is it so hard to replace them in our value chain.

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First, what are hydrocarbons?

A hydrocarbon is an organic chemical compound composed exclusively of hydrogen and carbon atoms - so basic chemical components of Hs and Cs. Hydrocarbons are naturally-occurring compounds and form the basis of crude oil, natural gas, coal, and other important energy sources.

Hydrocarbons can be gases (e.g. methane and propane), liquids (e.g. hexane and benzene), waxes

or low melting solids (e.g. paraffin wax and naphthalene) or polymers (e.g. polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene).

Fuels are on the chemistry level - a chain of Hydrocarbons.

We are burning dinosaur bones, when we talk about fossil fuels. (Yair Reem)

Globally, hydrocarbons are responsible for roughly 85% of energy consumption.

Source: World Data.

(source: Investopedia, wikipedia)

Hydrocarbon are extremely good for energy production. They have a high energy density - so a very strong umpf compared to battery or hydrogen in terms of space and weight.

To generate heat you combust hydrocarbon, which causes to break the hydrocarbon into CO2 and water (H2O). To fire it up, you need Oxygen.

By definition, by burning Hydrocarbon (gas, oil, etc.) you will create always CO2.


Alternative to Hydrocarbon Combustion is to electrify our society for example using solar energy to load the battery of your electric car. Another alternative to burning Hydrogen is to use Hydrocarbon Fuel Cells.

Picture: fuel cell

There are areas which you cannot replace hydrocarbon in the next 20-30 years:

  • long term aviation

  • petrochemical industry

  • extreme heat needed industry processes (Steel, etc.)

What are the sources of green hydrocarbon?

  1. Recycling of hydrocarbon such as recycling plastic

  2. Take the hydrocarbon from biomass / waste.

  3. Create synthetic hydrocarbon by sourcing H via electrolyzer process using renewable energy and C separately via Carbon Capturing and combine it via a chemical reaction.

The following graphic explains the different sources and the process on how to create hydrogen (H).

Source: Green vs. blue or grey hydrogen. Petrofac.

In this episode we are addressing the following questions:

  1. What is for you the biggest difference between the clean tech 1.0 and clean tech 2.0?

  2. At Extantia you search for the gigacorns, can you please explain what that means?

  3. Can you please explain what hydrocarbons are for a non-technical person? How it is created? For what is it used?

  4. Do you need anything else than hydrocarbon to produce heat or electricity?

  5. Can you use other molecules / Materials as the base for materials, chemicals, etc?

  6. What kind of solutions/companies do you see in that space?

  7. Is it realistic to generate the complete demand for hydrocarbons through renewable resources?

  8. What is the biggest hurdle to producing hydrocarbon from renewable resources?

  9. From an investor perspective, what are your biggest bets in the climate tech sector in the next 5 years?

  10. As a retailer or manufacturer who would like to use plastic that is coming from green hydrocarbon. Where do you need to go? Is there already a solution?

Great quotes from the episode by Yair:

Hydrocarbons are really good for energy creation. Their energy density is amazing. Real umpf in energy production.

There are areas in the economy called 'hard to decarbonized', which can not be electrified and aviation is a classic example where batteries and fuel cells won’t cut it.

Everything we touch, wear, eat, and smell has fossil fuels. 95% of vanilla in the world is synthetic and comes from fossil fuels.

The combustion of synthetic fossil fuels, is in terms of CO2 emission 80% below that of adding new CO2 to the system.

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