• World Biz Magazine

DRIVING CLEAN TECHNOLOGY IN THE CANADIAN NATURAL GAS SECTOR WITH VENTURE CAPITAL



John Adams is the President and CEO of NGIF Capital Corporation and Managing Partner, NGIF Cleantech Ventures. He was recently recognized by World Biz Magazine with our Top 100 CEOs in Innovation award.


John Adams knows that the evolution of the energy system will only be as effective as the cleantech innovation that enables it, and he has devoted his career to accelerating that evolution. Driven by a deeply rooted passion for finance, energy, and innovation for the last 30 years, Adams says he pursued opportunities to make an impact in the clean technology and startup world.


Dedicated to creating a resilient cleantech eco-system by effectively and efficiently collaborating with stakeholders, Adams was working with a variety of players when he was recruited by the Canadian Gas Association (CGA) in 2016 to expand the gas sector’s innovation agenda. There, with the financial support of CGA’s members, Adams helped create the Natural Gas Innovation Fund (NGIF).


For more than 150 years, Canadian gas utilities have been moving gaseous energy through underground infrastructure. Today, natural gas meets 35 per cent of Canada’s energy needs – a share that is growing – and is the single largest source of energy for Canada’s buildings industry sectors, amongst others.


Canada’s energy landscape is evolving, and natural gas utilities are transforming to remain a vital and growing part of the landscape.


NGIF Capital Corporation – an expansion of the original NGIF – is led by Adams. It is Canada’s first venture capital firm offering a hybrid investment and market-validation platform for cleantech startups, with solutions that enhance the environmental and economic performance for Canada’s natural gas sector.


“Technology innovation is the catalyst for rapid advancements in our industry, and NGIF provides a model for sharing solutions. The natural gas sector has long been at the forefront of the effort to reduce emissions. NGIF Capital Corporation will further advance the kinds of technology and solutions needed for an even lower emission future,” says Adams.


Industry is pressing for accelerated change. Producers, pipeline operators, and utilities know the important role they play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting Canada’s environmental goals. From renewable gases such as renewable natural gas and hydrogen, to natural gas transportation, energy efficiency, methane management, carbon capture innovation and a host of other opportunities, the sector is committed to a future that leverages its infrastructure and drives innovation through investment.


“Cleantech innovation is driving significant emissions intensity improvements in the natural gas sector, including lower greenhouse gas emissions. The demand for better environmental performance, while maintaining resiliency and affordability, requires steady investments in innovation – and NGIF is designed to help.”


A New Venture Capital Model


In April 2021, NGIF Cleantech Ventures – a division of NGIF Capital Corporation – launched with a first close of $35 million. The Fund is designed to grow innovative clean technology companies into commercial-scale enterprises. The Fund’s investments are expected to include technologies to reduce emissions and deliver other environmental benefits in natural gas production, transmission, distribution, storage, and end-use applications, and technologies to advance the production of renewable natural gas and hydrogen.


“Technology innovation is the catalyst for rapid advancements in our industry, and NGIF provides a model for sharing solutions. The natural gas sector has long been at the forefront of the effort to reduce emissions. NGIF Capital Corporation will further advance the kinds of technology and solutions needed for an even lower emission future.”


NGIF Cleantech Ventures’ seven limited partners represent Canada’s natural gas value chain: ARC Resources Ltd., Canadian Utilities Limited (An ATCO Company), Birchcliff Energy Ltd., FortisBC Energy Inc., TC Energy Corporation, Tidewater Midstream and Infrastructure Ltd., and Tourmaline Oil Corp.


“The Fund is uniquely focused to position Canada’s natural gas as the most competitive gas in the world, with the lowest-emission profile. Our fund leverages the experience and expertise of our strategic gas investors to support our cleantech startups.”


In July, NGIF Cleantech Ventures completed its second close, raising an additional $15 million from ARC Resources, Tidewater Midstream, and Tourmaline Oil.


“We appreciate the second boost of confidence from these three original investors. Our Fund continues to gain traction in the venture capital space.”


NGIF Cleantech Ventures has a solid and integrated approach and methodology for financial, technical, and legal due diligence stages within a venture capital structure. It has cultivated a network of energy cleantech-focused accelerators throughout the globe to gain visibility to new opportunities and ideas.


But NGIF is more than just an investor. It is a company builder.


NGIF Cleantech Ventures provides portfolio companies with unparalleled access to potential end-use customers, industry partnerships, and operational support through its team and limited partners – many of whom represent potential market uptake given their end-use access. Its portfolio acceleration model allows it to assist companies with its own internal expertise.


“Growing companies generate higher returns for our investors – and we are always focused on helping the companies grow.”


“The current venture capital market remains very strong, and our pipeline of high-quality investment opportunities continues to grow. In this environment, our team has been moving quickly to implement our investment strategy and assemble the core building block companies of our portfolio."


“Our fund will leverage the experience and expertise of our strategic gas partners to support our cleantech startups. NGIF Cleantech Ventures remains open to new strategic and institutional investors until it reaches $100 million.”

Also in July, NGIF Cleantech Ventures announced its inaugural investment in ThermoLift’s flagship fuel-flexible natural gas and hydrogen-enabled heat pump. The device (TC3) can meet three energy needs – water heating, space heating, and air conditioning – from a single unit. TC3 can provide up to a 50% reduction in HVAC cost of ownership, while providing a drastic reduction in end-use energy consumption.


“Looking at their approach, we believe that TC3 will greatly enhance the gas value proposition by showing how the fuel and the infrastructure can meet many energy demands – heating and cooling – while reducing costs and emissions.”


The value proposition for startups is clear: NGIF brings the first customers to the table, and it does that through its focus on technology validation and industry access.


“The current venture capital market remains very strong, and our pipeline of high-quality investment opportunities continues to grow. In this environment, our team has been moving quickly to implement our investment strategy and assemble the core building block companies of our portfolio."


“Our Fund will leverage the experience and expertise of our strategic gas partners to support our cleantech startups. NGIF Cleantech Ventures remains open to new strategic and institutional investors until it reaches $100 million.”


Accelerating Cleantech Innovation and Customer Creation


NGIF Capital Corporation is committed to accelerating cleantech innovation in natural gas, cutting new ground in Canada’s energy marketplace. NGIF Cleantech Ventures is the equity piece of that effort, but there are two other divisions as well: a granting fund and a testing centre. The integration of the three supports startups comprehensively from concept to commercialization in an effort to scale cleantech in Canada.


NGIF Industry Grants is the original NGIF vehicle and remains the flagship fund of NGIF Capital Corporation. It offers grants to early-stage startups developing solutions to environmental and other challenges facing Canada’s natural gas sector. The organization has built a portfolio of startups, trusted partnerships with government for co-funding opportunities, and a robust technical evaluation investment model.


One startup within its portfolio shows the innovation that is being explored. Carbon Upcycling is removing carbon dioxide from flue-gas emissions. It is a carbon utilization technology with a lot of potential in that it creates advanced saleable solid materials from carbon dioxide and flue-gas emissions. Its CO2-enhanced nanoparticle additives can be used in concrete infrastructure, plastic parts, and in consumer products that we use in our everyday lives.



"We know that natural gas is critical to the long-term well-being of Canadians, and indeed citizens around the world. And this team believes investment in innovation in the sector will make the future of natural gas – and what it delivers – that much better."

In just over four years since NGIF started accepting funding requests, $14 million has been approved for grants to companies like Carbon Upcycling through an industry peer review process – comprised of all NGIF investors. To date, 54 non-dilutive grants to 40+ early-stage cleantech startups to advance their technologies through development and field demonstration projects for the gas industry have been approved.


NGIF has fostered a trusted partnership model with government, encouraging the commercialization of clean technologies to support economic growth, job creation, and emission reductions across Canada. For every $1 that Industry Grants attracts, $9 in public and private funding has been leveraged. To date, the company has leveraged $141 million in additional funding for its portfolio.


Even with access to capital, development and demonstration projects can sit on a shelf and never get mobilized if the technologies cannot be validated. So NGIF developed a solution for that too.


NGIF’s Emissions Testing Centre is a $35 million industry-led instrumented live site platform for cleantech startups to test, validate, and benchmark their emissions solutions in a collaborative simulation environment. This is a plug-and-play testing platform for both simulated emissions testing at the University of Calgary Energy Centre, and live testing at the West Wolf Lake gas processing plant, located near Edson, Alberta, owned jointly by Tourmaline Oil Corp. and Perpetual Energy Inc.


"We know natural gas is critical to the long-term well-being of Canadians, and indeed citizens around the world. And this team believes investment in innovation in the sector will make the future of natural gas – and what it delivers – that much better.”



John Adams is President and Chief Executive Officer of NGIF Capital Corporation and Managing Partner of NGIF Cleantech Ventures, Canada’s first venture capital firm and venture fund created by and for Canada’s natural gas sector. He is involved in all aspects of the enterprise including the responsibility of NGIF Industry Grants, the NGIF Emissions Testing Centre and NGIF Cleantech Ventures.


Connect with NGIF Capital Corporation: ngif.ca

You can also reach out to John at jadams@cga.ca



John Adams, NGIF'S CEO and Managing Partner is featured on the cover of World Biz Magazine Q3, 2021 Issue - Click on the image below to view the digital edition.