Alphabet, Meta, Stripe, Shopify, and McKinsey Sustainability are collaborating to mitigate climate change by converting corn stalks and tree waste into barbecue sauce ingredients. Yes, big tech using bio oil to fight climate change and are involved in the Frontier climate programme.
Charm Industrial said that members of Frontier and other companies will pay $53 million to trap and store 112,000 tonnes of CO2 between 2024 and 2030. The company’s decentralized plan involves using its own fleet of vehicles to deliver equipment and bio-oil to be injected into waste disposal wells or disused salt caverns.
To fight climate change some of the biggest names in technology have agreed to turn corn stalks and tree trimmings into barbecue sauce ingredients. The remaining stuff will then be injected underground. About a year ago, companies like Alphabet, Meta, Stripe, Shopify, and McKinsey Sustainability launched a new climate initiative, Frontier. The goal is to convince other corporations to invest in new technologies capable of capturing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
This company is known for its unconventional way of capturing and storing carbon. It collects agricultural and forestry trash, such as discarded maize stalks or logging branches. It dispatches a fleet of flatbed semi-trucks to transport reactors that heat the trash to 500 degrees Celsius without burning it. This converts the waste into bio-oil, a tarry, carbon-rich liquid.
According to Peter Reinhardt, the co-founder and CEO of Charm, “The watery part of the bio-oil is essentially the same thing as liquid smoke, an ingredient used to give barbecue sauce and other foods a smokey flavor.”
Charm Industrial believes it can store CO2 underground for hundreds to millions of years, preventing climate change from worsening. This is how the startup can now sell carbon removal credits for which represent tons of carbon captured, to businesses that wish to use its service to offset some of their own carbon dioxide emissions.
Bio-oil also contains the carbon dioxide absorbed by the plants or trees from which it is derived. If the maize stalks and tree branches were burned or left to rot, the CO2 would have been released into the Earth’s atmosphere, contributing to global warming in addition to the emissions caused by fossil fuels.
Charm has successfully stored about 6,100 metric tons of CO2 in the form of bio-oil so far. A prior Microsoft purchase of 2,000 metric tons of CO2 is a significant portion of that. As a result, the agreement announced today represents a significant step forward and a vote of confidence from Big Tech companies that were early supporters of the new carbon removal business.
Charm says they have a decentralized strategy. The company moves equipment and bio-oil using its fleet of vehicles. It intends to inject the bio-oil into more frequent waste disposal wells or old salt caverns left behind from oil and gas exploration.
The pyrolyzers, which it employs to heat up waste items in the absence of oxygen, are not easily acquired. The company plans to produce the products on its own. It must also ensure that none of its wells leak bio-oil before the substance hardens into rock. Despite the fact that bio-oil is less buoyant than oil, gas, or pure CO2 and hence less likely to return to the surface, according to Reinhardt.
What is bio-oil?
Big tech using bio oil to fight climate change is a mixture of highly oxygenated molecules, carboxylic acids, and trace water. After being refined, bio-oil can be used as a substitute for conventional fuels. However, the oil can undergo several chemical reactions, such as polymerization, which might cause a rise in the viscosity of bio-oil during storage.
Is this method useful for all?
Charm must double-check its math to ensure that its process results in negative emissions. This includes reducing its own emissions from powering reactors and driving vehicles. And its technique is actually only useful as a climate strategy if the wood and plant debris the firm collects is just going to burn or rot without Charm coming in to do something with it. If farmers were going to use crop waste as extra feed for cattle, for example, they could now have to buy feed that is more carbon intensive.
All of this has to make commercial sense too, yet carbon removal remains prohibitively expensive across the sector. Today’s $53 million sale works out to about $473 per ton of CO2. That includes a bulk discount; potential clients may get quotations on Charm’s website for closer to $600 per ton which is equal to the cost of capturing CO2 straight out of the air.
Reinhardt agrees that trapping a small amount of CO2 is no substitute for lowering the amount of pollution produced by the use of fossil fuels in the first place. He further added â€œWell, I think it’s a false choice, but if you’re going to pick which one, you’re going to focus on first, you should absolutely focus on reductions.”