By Ashley Skow, Texas A&M Innovation
StarRotor was founded with a vision of bringing breakthrough technologies to market so they can provide widespread benefits in support of the global transition to clean energy. StarRotor is based on technology first developed at Texas A&M University by professor Dr. Mark Holtzapple, an expert in sustainable technologies, including water desalination, electricity storage, biomass conversion to chemicals and fuels, and cryogenic capture of carbon dioxide. Dr. Holtzapple is one of the most prolific inventors in The Texas A&M University System.
Even with decades of experience in developing innovative technologies, Dr. Holtzapple and the team at StarRotor realized that they needed experienced leadership and business expertise from a proven energy entrepreneur to make their vision a reality.
To fill this role, StarRotor recently hired global energy executive Leo Pirela as Chief Executive Officer. Pirela brings over 30 years of experience in the energy industry and has previously held senior leadership positions at Shell, Baker Hughes, Denbury, VPlus Energy, and Worley. Throughout his career, he has served on the Board of Directors and Executive Teams for startups, middle market companies, and large corporations.
According to Chief Innovation Officer Peter ONeill, Pirela’s hiring is an exciting step for both the company and for Texas A&M.
“Leo Pirela is an example of the kind of talent and expertise we want leading Texas A&M spinout companies,” said ONeill. “Recognized as a leader in the oil, gas, and energy sectors, he brings the perfect combination of skills to StarRotor. His prior experience implementing cutting-edge technology will allow him to recognize and execute the best deployment of StarRotor’s many potential business models and bring this breakthrough technology to market for the benefit of society.”
StarRotor is commercializing novel technologies dedicated to highly efficient energy conversion. Using technology licensed from The Texas A&M University System, the company has refined its high-efficiency compressors and expanders based on their innovative gerotor design.
Compressors and expanders are the machines used to convert massive amounts of energy between heat, pressure, shaft power and electricity. StarRotor’s gerotor design creates tremendous efficiencies while offering design flexibility that was previously unachievable. For example, while the gerotor concept has traditionally been used to pump lubricating liquids, StarRotor has adapted gerotors for use with gases, creating a positive-displacement turbo machine with a smooth, purely rotational motion. The result is machines that provide more efficiency, reliability, and flexibility at a lower cost than any other solution on the market.
With an experienced entrepreneur on board, StarRotor’s next steps are to seek partners who share the company’s vision to accelerate the global energy transition.
“I look at StarRotor as a Technology Platform, not just as a startup with cool machines,” said Pirela. “Our company has the potential to be the next CleanTech Unicorn. We have therefore started our transformation journey, where we will focus on attracting strategic investors and customers who want to be part of meeting the needs of a world that demands more energy but expects it to be generated in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.”
StarRotor’s innovative technology has the potential to enable fundamental improvements in a wide range of markets and applications related to energy conversion. Initial focus has been on applying the technology to compressor and expander machines, with long-term goals to create highly efficient engines.
“While we continue to innovate, we will increase our focus on developing systems that can be deployed to harvesting and transforming otherwise waste sources of energies,” said Pirela. “Our systems will target the following markets: high-pressure-to-power, heat-to-power, low pressure ‘stranded’ natural gas, Hydrogen and CO2 compression, water desalination, long duration energy storage (LDES), gas-to-liquids, small scale liquified natural gas (LNG) and electric motors made without using rare Earth minerals.”
Texas A&M Innovation works with industry partners like StarRotor to commercialize Texas A&M technologies, providing continued support throughout the “commercialization journey”. According to Pirela, that kind of support is vital in the success of an early-stage startup.
“Having Board Directors Craig Carothers and Chris Scotti from Texas A&M Innovation is highly valuable to us,” said Pirela. “They bring valuable perspectives and knowledge, which enrich our strategic discussions as we pave the path towards commercialization. They also keep us connected to the startup innovation ecosystem, which provides access to talent, emerging technologies, and best practices.”
For more information on StarRotor Corporation, visit their website.