Samsung, Chevron and Saudi Aramco Pour $150 Million into Carbon Capture Startup

If we want to keep global warming below 1.5C, we can only emit another 500 gigatons of carbon in the atmosphere, according to the UN’s climate advice – that’s about eight years at the current rate.

In the race to reduce emissions, much hope is pinned on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology – which captures carbon produced in industrial processes before it reaches the atmosphere, whether either in cement and steel manufacturing processes, oil refineries or natural gas production.

And investor interest in CCS increased. The British startup Clean Carbon has just raised $150 million. greatest trick of all time for a CCS startup, according to Dealroom.

Clean Carbon

There’s a lot of heated discussion about CCS’s relationship to fossil fuels, but big players in the industry are fervent about the technology. The latest Clean Carbon round was led by Chevron and saw participation from Samsung (which has a large oil and gas portfolio) and Saudi Aramco, among others.

The round comes amid growing interest in CCS – last year the global CCS project capacity predicted a 50% increase in nine monthsand the industry has been further boosted by the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which highlighted the need for the technology.

Other forms of carbon removal are also attracting interest. Climeworksa Swiss startup working on direct air capture (where carbon is removed from the air itself, rather than picked at source) raised $650 million last month.

Lower the price

“Capturing carbon at the point of source is quite simple,” Clean Carbon founder Aniruddha Sharma told Sifted. “It’s not as complicated as direct air capture, and variations have been around for about 50 years.”

CCS works by taking industrial process gases and feeding them into a tower structure where they are sprayed with a chemical that absorbs carbon dioxide. It produces a beer-like substance with CO2 trapped inside, which is then heated to remove the CO2. This CO2 can then be used to make other products, such as fuels, or stored in abandoned gas wells.

Modeling suggests that the cost of storing CO2 emissions from natural gas power plants is approximately $80 to $90 per ton. To reduce the cost of CCS, there has been a drive to produce larger plants, so the economies of scale kick in and drive the price per ton down.

But this led to a problem: the initial cost of building a factory is high and it takes up a lot of space. Sharma estimates that companies would need 40% more land per plant.

This is where he says Carbon Clean’s technology comes in. It has managed to compress the size of the equipment needed and increase efficiency by introducing a rotating disc into the tower, which increases the area contact for the reaction.

Sharma claims that his equipment requires 10 times less space than other models. “That means you don’t have to have ugly rides, you can have it all in a shipping container, and that makes adoption much, much easier. This paves the way for carbon capture for heavy industry.

Clean Carbon says its technology cuts the cost to $45 per ton and can bring it down to $30 per ton by 2025. CCS is also significantly cheaper than eliminating air capture directly – Vise Climeworks 250 to 300 dollars per ton by 2030, for example.

Greening the fossil fuel industry?

There is a lot of debate around where CCS should be deployed. Some experts point out that it should be used in industries like cement and steel, where emissions are unlikely ever to exceed zero.

There is an argument that its use in oil and gas production encourages the perpetuation of fossil fuels – because the focus is on greening their processes rather than developing inherently more energy sources. sustainable energy, such as wind, solar and other renewable energies.

Some CCS projects have also fallen short of expectations. Chevron acknowledged last year that a CCS project in Australia had failed in its objective of capturing 80% of CO2 emissions. The project did not involve Carbon Clean.

But other experts believe that removing all carbon from the atmosphere is positive. “I have a carnivorous attitude to climate change,” says Jon Gibbons, CCS professor at the University of Sheffield and director of the CCS Research Center in the UK. “We just need to stop the net addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

“At present [oil companies] don’t have to [deal with Scope 3 emissions]. But regulation, or market differentiation or public opinion will force them to”

“Oil companies will eventually have to meet their scope 3 emissions. They will have to sell oil and remove the corresponding CO2 from the atmosphere within that cost,” which he says he can afford, given the increase recent oil price.

“At the moment, they don’t have to. But regulation, market differentiation or public opinion will force them to do so. If we have a way to remove the carbon we emit from the atmosphere and not dump it on future generations, the pressure on these companies to do so will grow stronger.

Sharma says the central goal of Carbon Clean is to help the hardest industries to eliminate.

“We focus on steel, cement, energy from waste, refining and petrochemicals. These are industries that you cannot get rid of in the short or medium term, or in some cases in the long term as well,” he says.

“It’s hard to find sustainable substitutes, so our product is very focused on industrial decarbonization.”

Freya Pratty is a reporter at Sifted. She tweets from @FPratty and writes our optimized sustainability newsletter You can register here.

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