June 3, 2024

Electra’s clean-steel tech key to global climate-change battle

BOULDER — Steel production is the culprit for the creation of an estimated 10% of total global carbon emissions, Electrasteel Inc., a Boulder-based developer of a more-sustainable iron and steel production process that does business as Electra, could hold the key to drastically reducing that industry’s climate footprint. 

“Decarbonizing the steel industry is mission-critical,” Electra CEO Sandeep Nijhawan, who founded the company with chief technology officer Quoc Pham, told BizWest in an email. “Steel production emits about two tons of CO2 for every ton of steel produced. …A substantial portion of these emissions come from converting iron ore into steel-ready iron, driven by both intense heat requirements and chemical reactions in this transition.”

Electra has hit several milestones recently, including raising $85 million and expanding at 6400 Lookout Road in Boulder’s Gunbarrel neighborhood, encompassing more than 60,000 square feet and occupying the entire building.


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This spring, Electra launched a pilot manufacturing run at its Boulder facility. The pilot project, the company said, will demonstrate Electra’s ability to “produce metallic iron from already mined, high-impurity, commercially stranded ores to accelerate decarbonization, sustainability, and circularity across the ore-to-steel value chain.”

The journey that led to the recent pilot program “started about a decade ago when I saw the rapid growth of renewable energy and realized that renewables would be the cleanest, greenest and soon the lowest-cost source of power,” Nijhawan said. “This led to the question of how to best utilize renewable energy for the biggest climate impact. The first step was founding a company focused on battery storage, where I met Pham. Electra continues that journey for us where we are developing a new industrial process using renewable energy and decarbonizing steelmaking, one of the hardest to abate sectors.”

While the journey has led the Electra team to Boulder, it began in Silicon Valley.

“Our thesis was that we do not need to be in Silicon Valley to raise the capital,” said Nijhawan, who moved to Colorado about eight years ago. “Instead, we prioritized having access to great talent and the ecosystem to build a climate solution company with an excellent quality of life. The Boulder-Denver corridor has an excellent environment for innovation and has become a growing hub for climate solutions, making it an ideal setting for a company like ours.”  

A key input “for creating transformational innovations is recruiting the best talent and building a high-performance team, creating a unique culture for the team to challenge the status quo, and with our limited resources, taking a disciplined approach to solving problems using the theory of constraints,” he said. 

With the initial manufacturing run underway, Electra has its eye on scaling its clean-steel technology.

“Electra’s pilot will continue to evaluate iron ores from all over the world, focusing on impurity removal to produce gangue-free 99% pure iron,” Nijhawan said. “We’re currently reviewing sites throughout the United States for the first phase of our commercial deployment plan and are targeting commercial adoption by the end of the decade.”

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Lucas High
A Maryland native, Lucas has worked at news agencies from Wyoming to South Carolina before putting roots down in Colorado.
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