Maria Montero

The oil and gas giants Chevron and Occidental back …

Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company that develops technology to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and process it for use in enhanced oil recovery or in the creation of new synthetic fuels, has secured funding from two major industry sponsors, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum, for Their products to market.

The undisclosed amount of capital Carbon Engineering raised from the investment arms of two of the world’s largest oil and gas companies: Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures. – will be used to commercialize its technology at a time when California and British Columbia legislation are making low-carbon fuels more economically viable, according to a statement from the company’s CEO Steve Oldham. The company had already managed to take over Microsoft. Co-founder Bill Gates as an investor.

Gates is one of many big-name backers drawn to renewable energy technologies in the face of an ever-warming planet that is rapidly approaching a tipping point of no return when it comes to global climate change. Along with a group of other billionaires, including Marc Benioff, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, Jack Ma, Masayoshi Son and Meg Whitman, Gates last year launched a $ 1 billion fund called Breakthrough Energy Ventures to support companies developing new technologies such as energy storage and water production.

Squamish, BC-based carbon engineering is not in Breakthrough’s portfolio, but it is one of several companies working to make a technology called “direct air capture” of carbon dioxide economically viable.

At the company’s pilot plant in Squamish, the air is drawn by giant fans into a processing plant where it is treated with potassium hydroxide, which captures and retains carbon dioxide. More chemicals and heat are then added to the mix to create millions of white-smelling granules, which contain higher concentrations of carbon dioxide.

After that, the granules are heated again to create a gas that is almost pure carbon dioxide. That gas can be sequestered underground (a proposition of no financial benefit to Carbon Engineering at this time) or it can be turned back into fuels, chemicals, or used to enhance oil recovery.

Carbon Engineering and competitors like ClimeWorks or Global Thermostat claim they can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for about $ 100 per ton or slightly less once they can get to scale. However, to make money, they will have to refine that carbon dioxide into some kind of product, probably a fuel, that will return that carbon to the atmosphere.

Other companies that address carbon capture like Newlight Technologies and Opus12 convert carbon into plastics or chemicals, while companies like CarbonCure try to convert captured carbon into a cement replacement.

While these carbon emissions products are available, they are not yet commercially viable on a significant scale. Oldham told National Public Radio that the fuel Carbon Engineering makes is roughly 20 percent more expensive than regular gasoline.

That’s why states like California are implementing incentives to offset the added costs of using these low-carbon products.

Carbon Engineering has already spent $ 30 million to develop its process, while Climeworks raised $ 31 million last year to develop its own version of this carbon capture technology.

Not all climate watchers are convinced that these types of negative emission technologies are the answer. They argue that it is less expensive to use renewable energy and other carbon-free energy sources than it is to remove carbon dioxide from the air.

At this point, however, emission reductions may not be enough. Given the dire reports coming in from the Trump Administration and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it will take a combination of everything humanity has to avoid a rather catastrophic fate for a large portion of the world’s population.

Even companies that have been notorious for their contributions to the climate crisis facing the world are waking up to the need for decarbonization (even if it’s an open question of whether they are being dragged to the table or sitting on their own). be).

Oxy Low Carbon Ventures is a good example. Reading the writing on the wall, the company has invested not only in Carbon Engineering, but in another company called NET Power, which claims to have developed a zero-emission power plant.