Concrete, lululemons and diamonds made from CO2 generate excitement among investors
October 4 (Reuters) – What do diamonds, sunglasses, high-end lululemon sportswear and concrete have to do with climate change?
They can all be made from carbon dioxide (CO2), trapping the gas that warms the planet. And the tech startups driving these transformations are grabbing the attention of investors.
Some use bacteria. Some use protein. Some use chemical processes to speed up natural reactions. Most separate carbon and oxygen from CO2 to create another chemical used to make consumer goods.
Companies in the region have raised more than $ 800 million so far this year, more than triple the levels in 2020, according to a Reuters review of data from PitchBook, Circular Carbon Network, Cleantech Group and Climate Tech VC.
“I don’t want to call it a green tax, but our consumers who really care … have shown that they are willing to pay a little more,” said Ryan Shearman, managing director of Aether Diamonds, which grows diamonds in the lab using captured CO2. At the opposite end of the glamor spectrum, the green concrete industry is also good for marketing, said Robert Niven, CEO of CarbonCure Technologies, which makes technology that injects CO2 into fresh concrete and strengthens it by trapping the carbon.
“About 90% of our adoption comes from independent concrete producers, large and small, who are simply looking for that competitive edge. “
The world must capture and store 10 billion tonnes of CO2 a year by mid-century to slow climate change, according to United Nations estimates, a scale that businesses can only dream of, while current pilots of carbon capture are often at scales of hundreds and thousands of tonnes. .
Humans produce greenhouse gases equivalent to around 50 billion tonnes of CO2 each year, and governments will meet in Scotland in late October and November for a United Nations climate conference on reducing emissions.
All of the fossil-based products that could use recycled CO2 instead represent some 6.8 billion tonnes of emissions, according to a Columbia University report in May, although lead author Amar Bhardwaj said that trying to trade all of this “would be a misuse of CO2 recycling.” because there are cheaper ways to reduce carbon emissions.
Nicholas Flanders, co-founder of Twelve, which uses chemical processes to reuse CO2, says recycling is better than storing captured CO2 underground. “We are developing technology that can go hand in hand with fossil fuels” without additional financial incentives to remove carbon.
Indeed, many consumers are attracted by “green” labels.
lululemon Athletica inc (LULU.O) says it has created a polyester yarn from carbon emissions with LanzaTech that will be used for future products. LanzaTech, which has raised the most corporate funds in space, according to the Reuters review, creates ethanol using bacteria. Ethanol is turned into ethylene which is used to make everything from plastic bottles to polyester.
CEO Jennifer Holmgren said LanzaTech ethanol is more expensive than corn-based ethanol, but customers looking to source greener products are buying.
The biggest investment in space this year, more than $ 350 million, has been in Houston-based Solugen, which supplies CO2 and other ingredients to enzymes that make chemicals for the tougher cement, the coating of water pipes and other products.
Its products are already cheaper than those made from fossil fuels, CEO Gaurab Chakrabarti said. However, it is not about sourcing the CO2 captured in factory emissions or in the air, which Chakrabarti described as “an option”.
Capturing CO2 is a less attractive prospect for many investors, who believe the government should fund such expensive and high-risk projects.
However, Nicholas Moore Eisenberger, Managing Partner at Pure Energy Partners, has invested in direct air capture company Global Thermostat and sees an opportunity in the need and believes that once projects are scaled up they will be less. Dear.
“Science tells us that we have less than a decade to start turning the climate curve, and it is now within the investment time frame of most venture capitalists and private equity investors,” he said. declared Eisenberger.
Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee and Nia Williams; edited by Peter Henderson and Marguerita Choy
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