The Hérault SME Bulane is the creator of a clean industrial flame generated from the hydrogen naturally present in water. It designs and manufactures electrolysers for combustion applications, enabling the generation of a high-temperature flame, generated on-site and without gas storage, with very low carbon emissions. The medium-sized company has found its way to large industrial customers and to date reports almost 1,600 electrolysers sold since 2016. Its technology now offers the hybridization of existing fossil combustion processes with hydrogen combustion for the indirect electrification of industrial thermal processes and the building.
On January 24th, it announces that it has completed a €14 million fundraiser. This is the third round of financing conducted by Bulane after raising funds of EUR 2.7 million in 2015 and a second of EUR 2.8 million in 2018. The operation will be carried out with the participation of Bulane’s historical investors (IRDI Capital Investissement and SOFILARO, as ) and Bpifrance, the Occitanie regional council and its banking partners (Banque Populaire du Sud, BNP Paribas, Caisse d’Epargne Languedoc Roussillon and Crédit Agricole Languedoc).
Financially and extra-financially
But for this fundraiser, the medium-sized company has also opened up the field of investors. Cédric de Saint-Jouan through his holding company Vol-V, Jean-Marc Bouchet through his holding company Captain Watt (which also includes Qair, producer of renewable energies) and Patrice Lafargue, President of the IDEC Group (active in France and internationally). in all real estate related businesses) via IDEC Invest Innovation.
“We wanted to give this operation two dimensions: one financial and one extra-financial, explains Nicolas Jerez, the founding president of Bulane. It allows us to federate a real pool of know-how. Our desire is to treat the entire value chain between the electron and the end user and for this we combine the capabilities of this value chain in conjunction with the industrial and construction applications we target. Bulane’s historic shareholders remain in the majority, notably IRDI and Sofilaro, as well as Bulane’s founders, Pierre-Yves Urvoy, Henri and Serge Champseix and myself. As for UI Gestion, which concentrates its investments on the start-up phases, they are logically out. »
That explains Cédric de Saint-Jouan “Vol-V has chosen to enable Bulane, a pioneer in hydrogen flame applications, to evolve its economic model from selling technological products to selling energy in the form of hydrogen molecules. Hydrogen”.
“Like our recent investments in innovative start-ups, our stake in Bulane is strategic in order to build a full ecosystem around green energy and strive for decarbonization. comments Patrice Lafargue. We already see a multitude of applications in our companies and in particular in the possible uses for our customers and partners in order to reconcile growth and ecological responsibility. »
New business models
Bulane now wants to use its hydrogen flame to decarbonize industrial heating processes and buildings (by hybridizing boilers).
“The industry wants to get rid of gas cylinders more than ever, says Nicolas Jerez. We develop partnership projects like with Maison Hennessy (Subsidiary of the LVMH Group and producer of cognac, Ed.) with which we are in the validation phase, and distillation is clearly a sector interested in our decarbonization technology. Other target sectors include the agricultural and food industry, microelectronics, the glass industry and the heat treatment of metals. »
In air conditioning, rising gas prices and bottled gas supply issues have boosted Bulane’s historic business in the oxy-flame equipment market. While in 2017 the SME had signed a commercial partnership with Castolin (subsidiary of the international group Messer, world leader in solutions for assembly and maintenance using welding, brazing and related techniques), “In 2022 we signed a deal with an important new partner, Bizline (Subsidiary of Rexel, d. editor), manufacturer of HVAC equipment with 800 stores”, says Nicholas Jerez.
International, innovative, structuring
According to Bulane’s chairman, this €14 million fundraiser has three goals.
” Firstly, to support internationally the commercial development of Bulane’s historical activities, ie the clean industrial flame, and to establish new economic models oriented towards the sale of energy. Next, develop innovation programs to create new products and address thermal applications in industry and buildings: in particular, we need to scale the size of our electrolysers from 20 kW to 500 kW and then to 1 MW. Last but not least, To support this growth, Bulane sStructuring of the organization with the recruitment of around 30 new employees and the expansion of our production capacities. »
Therefore, while Bulane now has around twenty employees, for a turnover of 2.3 million euros in 2022, for 2023 the manager is looking for very broad profiles, from production to R&D, also through finance or marketing. The extension will take place on land. of the metropolis Montpellier”, Without being more specific, he specifies at least 2,000 m2 more for the production of electrolysers.
Europe needs to reduce its fossil fuels and inputs quickly to reduce its carbon emissions, as well as its geopolitical and economic reliance on imported gas. In this context, hydrogen produced by electrolysis from renewable electricity can play a major role, replacing fossil fuels in industrial processes or for heating buildings. Bulane’s manager recalls that in France they represent more than 400 TWh per year, ” and in industry, 70% of these are not readily electrified ‘ says Nicolas Jerez.
In this emerging “hydrogen” ecosystem, the Hérault SME is working to chart its course, slowly but surely. A pragmatic path based on the convictions of Nicolas Jerez on the realities and prospects of the hydrogen market that can be summed up in one word: hybridization.
“Changes are not achieved by simple leaps: everything is linked to an adaptation to the environment, so we hybridize, analyzes the leader. Our credo at Bulane is to find existing uses that are high carbon emitters and that we will have a big impact on. And our subject is to make an electric gas (based on hydrogen by electrolysis therefore, editor’s note): Enter applications that burn gas by hybridizing it with hydrogen. Because there is a process issue in industry and if we don’t support this hybridization there is a risk that industries will relocate or be gased in the next thirty years. The implementation of these systems can be done in a secure and progressive way without changing the infrastructures. »