Squamish, B.C.-based Carbon Engineering has received billionaire backing from Silicon Valley investors, netting US$68 million to build its first commercial-scale Direct Air Capture (DAC) facility to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
“A financial investor invests because they like your business plan,” said President and CEO Steve Oldham. “We were able to bring some pretty big Silicon Valley venture capital to us.”
The new investors include Thomvest Asset Management, chaired by Canadian billionaire Peter Thomson, as well as Silicon Valley venture capital funds First Round Capital, an early funder of Uber Technologies, and Lowercase Capital, an early backer of Twitter, the Financial Post reports.
“The latest funds will allow Carbon Engineering to bring its technology, which has been pilot tested in Squamish, to market at a commercial scale,” the Post adds, citing Oldham. “The company will also expand its pilot project in Squamish and engineer its first commercial facilities.”
While Oldham wouldn’t say whether any of his company’s industrial investors were thinking about deploying the technology in their own operations, he said it’s “a reasonable deduction for anybody to say those companies that have invested in Carbon Engineering would also be interested in becoming the first customers”.
The Post says Carbon Engineering has also developed an “air to fuels” technology to turn the carbon it captures into fuels for existing cars and trucks. “If the two technologies are used together, the company believes it can create a ‘closed loop’ of carbon emissions, where the carbon that is emitted from the ‘air to fuels’ process is the same carbon that had already been collected,” the paper adds. “This process is specifically targeted at reducing emissions in the transportation sector.”
That plan contrasts with an assessment released last month by the U.S. Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and Germany’s Heinrich Böll Foundation, which found that enhanced oil recovery operations are the ultimate beneficiary of 85% of U.S. subsidies for carbon capture and storage and Direct Air Capture technologies.
The two organizations concluded that DAC, notwithstanding the glowing media it’s received in recent months, is a highly energy-intensive technology that “will be used primarily to produce hydrocarbon fuels that will themselves be burned, resulting in either net carbon emissions or massive diversions of renewable energy for uncertain benefits while simultaneously slowing the transition from internal combustion engines.” More broadly, “almost all geoengineering proposals serve to entrench and benefit fossil fuel interests rather than solve the climate crisis,” the report warned. “By promoting the development of new fossil fuels and costly fossil infrastructure, by diverting resources away from proven mitigation strategies to costly boondoggles, and by sustaining the myth that meaningful climate action can be safely delayed or narrowly constrained, geoengineering threatens to undermine real solutions at the time when they are most urgently needed.”