CALGARY – American oil giants Chevron Corp. and Occidental Petroleum Corp. are investing in a small Squamish, B.C.-based technology company that has created a carbon-capture system it claims can scrub CO2 from the atmosphere.
Privately held Carbon Engineering Ltd. already counts some big-name investors among its shareholders, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. founder Murray Edwards.
Now, San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron and Houston-based Occidental have also made undisclosed investments in Carbon Engineering, which the company says it will use to develop and roll-out a commercial version of its pilot facility, which captures CO2 from the atmosphere.
Carbon Engineering is still in discussions with additional potential investors, including from the oil and gas industry that are looking for new technologies to reduce their total emissions.
The company describes its pilot in Squamish as a “negative emissions facility” that can subtract CO2 emitted by cars, factories and other industrial sources.
“If we decide as a country that we want to build pipelines and we want to build LNG facilities and they are essential for our economy, but they have emissions, then maybe you offset that by building a negative emissions facility,” Carbon Engineering CEO Steve Oldham said in an interview.
A commercial scale negative-emissions plant would scrub 1 megaton of CO2 from the atmosphere per year and occupy 30 acres of land. Oldham said the facility would be the equivalent of planting 40 million trees.
“It’s not sufficient to reduce emissions. We have to start removing the CO2 we’ve already put in the atmosphere,” Oldham said in an interview.
He would not say whether Chevron, Occidental or Canadian Natural planned to be among the first to deploy the CO2 sequestration technology, but said that oil and gas companies that use CO2 for enhanced oil recovery see the value in capturing and using CO2.
Enhanced oil recovery involves stimulating older oil and gas reservoirs with CO2 or water to pressurize the formations, stimulating the more production from existing wells. Occidental uses this method at many of its operations.
“Carbon Engineering’s direct air capture technology has the unique capability to capture and provide large volumes of atmospheric CO2. This capability complements Occidentals’ enhanced oil recovery business and provides further synergies by enabling large-scale CO2 utilization and sequestration,” Richard Jackson, Occidental’s senior vice-president of operations said in a release.
Carbon Engineering “direct air capture” technology could also be useful in producing CO2 as an additive to diesel and jet fuel.
Oldham said the company has also developed a process that combines sequestered CO2 with hydrogen to create a fuel that can be blended with diesel or jet fuel. He compared it to adding ethanol to fuels to reduce emissions from the transportation sector.
“The fuel is carbon neutral because the CO2 that we burn into the atmosphere is the same CO2 that we collected yesterday. So you create a closed loop of CO2 that’s used in transportation,” he said.
Bill Gates, who still owns 1.3 per cent of Microsoft and has a networth of US$92 billion, is an active investor with stakes in dozens of publicly traded companies, including Canadian National Railway Co., Deere & Co. and Ecolab Inc., via the privately held Cascade Investment.
The billionaire is also focused on sustainable causes and pledged to invest $1 billion along with other partners to help promising European companies take great ideas from the lab to market at scale inOctoberto tackle climate change holistically.
“To stop the planet from getting substantially warmer, we need breakthroughs in how we make things, grow food, and move people and goods—not just how we power our homes and cars,” Gates said in a blog in October.