Forget planting trees. This company is funding 4 far-out carbon removal projects

Last August, a San Francisco–based tech startup called Stripe
made a bold climate promise. The company, which makes software that
enables online payments and is valued at $36 billion, was already
investing in energy-efficiency projects to reduce its carbon
footprint. It was also
paying for carbon offsets
for the emissions that it couldn’t
avoid, from things like business flights and the natural gas burned
to heat its offices. But Stripe wanted to go even further to take
action on climate change. The company announced it would spend

an additional $1 million annually
on emerging carbon removal
technologies, bringing its carbon balance sheet into the black.

The announcement kicked off a vetting process in which Stripe
solicited proposals and consulted with scientists to evaluate them.
On Monday, it delivered on its promise, revealing its first

four winners
, which will be receiving about $250,000 each.

Though the amounts are small, the gesture is huge. The
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that in order to
prevent catastrophic climate change, we’ll need to start
actively pulling carbon out of the carbon cycle
and permanently
sequestering it. But a lot of the tools available to do so are
still nascent and expensive, and will require the kind of
leap-of-faith buy-in that Stripe is offering to help them scale
up.

The carbon removal technologies Stripe chose are early stage,
and currently remove carbon at a cost of between $75 and $775 per
ton — a far cry from common carbon offset projects like forest
conservation and methane capture from landfills, which typically
cost less than $10 per ton. Stripe’s $1 million will only
sequester about 6500 tons of CO2, assuming the earliest-stage
projects it chose actually work.

Swiss-based ClimeWorks has the most established technology of
the bunch, and is also the most expensive. ClimeWorks uses
renewable energy to power machines that capture CO2 directly from
the air and inject it deep underground, where it reacts with rock
formations and hardens. The company says its pilot project will
bury 50 tons of CO2 in 2020, and it’s in the process of
developing a larger plant that will capture several thousand tons
of CO2 per year.

Charm Industrial’s
bio-oil, produced from biomass, will be injected underground Charm
Industrial

Stripe also chose CarbonCure, a Canadian company that takes CO2
sourced from industrial emitters and incorporates it into
concrete.

A third company, Charm Industrial, will use the money to test
the viability of injecting bio-oil underground — sort of like
reverse oil drilling. Bio-oil is a carbon-rich fluid produced by
burning biomass like corn husks and rice straw that typically rot
in the field; burying it underground removes it from the carbon
cycle.

The fourth winner is Project Vesta, a startup founded by a guy
who also markets
supplements that allegedly enhance brain function
. Project
Vesta is working on a pilot study to prove the safety and efficacy
of spreading a mineral called olivine on sandy beaches, where
waves will
break the olivine down
, speeding up its ability to pull CO2
from the air.

If you’re thinking that some of these projects sound a little
out there, you’re not alone. Some climate hawks and scientists
have raised their eyebrows at the announcement. “I question
whether the companies that they are supporting can scale,”
commented
Jigar Shah, president of the clean energy investment firm Generate
Capital, on Twitter. Volcanologist Erik Klemetti voiced concern
that Project Vesta could have unintended ecosystem
consequences.

But Jane Zelikova, chief scientist at Carbon180, a nonprofit
focused on carbon removal, applauded Stripe for being a leader in
the space.

“They’re not the only company thinking about negative
emissions or carbon removal,” Zelikova said. “But they’re
certainly the first ones essentially saying, ‘We’ll pay any
price per ton, we want to move this whole field forward.’ I think
that’s really awesome.”

Zelikova’s expertise is in soil carbon sequestration, and she
was one of the scientists hired by Stripe as consultants to review
submissions. Ultimately the company did not go with any soil-based
carbon removal projects, but Zelikova praised Stripe for seeking
expert opinion and outside
analysis
and for making the entire process transparent. Stripe
has shared its evaluation criteria online and encouraged other
companies to use it, in addition to making all of the proposals it
received
available on GitHub
.

“That is very impressive and I think very rare, the level of
transparency and cooperation,” said Zelikova. “I hope they
serve as a template for how other people can do something
similar.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline
Forget planting trees. This company is funding 4 far-out carbon
removal projects
on May 22, 2020.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News 2
Forget planting trees. This company is funding 4 far-out
carbon removal projects