Silicon Valley invests in technology that can scrub a megaton of C02 from the atmosphere yearly, the equivalent of planting 40 million trees
CALGARY – Privately-held, billionaire-backed Carbon Engineering Ltd. has raised enough money to design its first “negative emissions” facility to suck carbon out of the atmosphere.
The Squamish, B.C.-based company announced Thursday it had closed another equity financing round and raised US$68 million, which it describes as the largest private investment to date in technology that captures carbon directly from the air.
Through the latest funding round, Carbon Engineering is adding Thomvest Asset Management, chaired by Canadian billionaire Peter Thomson, as well as several Silicon Valley venture capital funds to its shareholder list, which had previously included Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
“A financial investor invests because they like your business plan. We were able to bring some pretty big Silicon Valley venture capital to us,” Carbon Engineering president and CEO Steve Oldham said.
The latest funds will allow Carbon Engineering to bring its technology, which has been pilot tested in Squamish, to market at a commercial scale, Oldham said. The company will also expand its pilot project in Squamish and engineer its first commercial facilities.
The company’s release says its equity raises show the “commercial readiness” of the technology, which pulls carbon emissions from the air and stores it in liquid form underground.
While Carbon Engineering is still small and relatively unknown, it has attracted big-name shareholders, including Bill Gates and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. founder Murray Edwards.
A release from the company shows that multiple California-based venture capital funds such as First Round Capital, which was an early funder of ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies, and Lowercase Capital, an early funder of Twitter Inc., are also invested in Carbon Engineering.
The company has also added Melbourne-based mining, metals and petroleum giant BHP Group Plc. to its list of shareholders, which already boasts the venture capital arms of U.S.-based oil majors Chevron Corp. and Occidental Petroleum Corp.
Oldham wouldn’t say whether Carbon Engineering’s industrial investors are looking to deploy the technology at their own operations, just that industrial emitters could use its system to offset their carbon at a price under US$100 per tonne.
“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,” he said, adding the company would announce the locations for its first commercial projects in the coming months.
"We were able to bring some pretty big Silicon Valley venture capital to us." - Steve Oldham
A commercial negative-emissions plant by Carbon Engineering would occupy 30 acres of land and scrub one megaton of CO2 from the atmosphere per year, which Oldham said is equivalent to planting 40 million trees.
Carbon Engineering has also developed another process it calls “air to fuels” which uses the carbon it captures and turns it into fuels that can power 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.
This process is specifically targeted at reducing emissions in the transportation sector, one of five industries Gates identified as areas where he’s investing.
In October, Gates, the richest person in the world, announced he would be investing in “breakthrough” technologies targeted at the electricity, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and building sector to reduce emissions.
He also announced his involvement in a group called Breakthrough Energy Ventures to fund companies and technologies that would reduce carbon in each of those five industries, alongside billionaires like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Bloomberg founder Michael Bloomberg, Virgin founder Richard Branson and Saudi billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal.
The BEV fund is not listed as an investor in Carbon Engineering.
By Geoffrey Morgan
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019