Emerald Breakthrough: Carbon Capture Revolutionizing Climate Solutions

"Heirloom Unveils Revolutionary Climate Solution: First US Commercial DAC Plant Locks Away Carbon Dioxide in Concrete"

Heirloom, a US-based Direct Air Capture (DAC) company, has launched an innovative climate solution that utilizes limestone to suck carbon dioxide from the air and store it in concrete. This marks the opening of the first commercial DAC plant in the United States. The concept of capturing carbon from the air was once considered unlikely, but it is now gaining traction as a crucial tool in the fight against the climate crisis. Significant funds from various sources are being invested in carbon removal initiatives and projects. In the US, the current administration has committed nearly $4 billion to promote DAC and other carbon removal initiatives.

Located in Tracy, California, Heirloom’s facility aims to capture up to 1,000 tons of CO2 per year using limestone. The DAC process involves heating the limestone to high temperatures, breaking it down into CO2 and calcium oxide using industrial kilns. The captured carbon dioxide is then stored in concrete for construction purposes. The remaining calcium oxide is exposed to air on trays and naturally absorbs carbon. After three days, the powder becomes saturated with CO2 and is returned to the kiln to begin the process again. Heirloom claims that its system uses fewer energy-intensive fans by leveraging the natural carbon-attracting properties of limestone. Unlike other DAC systems that use giant fans to pull CO2 from the atmosphere, Heirloom’s modular facilities allow for easy expansion by employing larger trays for limestone and adding more trays to the setup. The company has collaborated with CarbonCure, another climate tech innovator, which stores the extracted CO2 in their concrete plants near Heirloom’s facility.

Shashank Samala, CEO of Heirloom, developed this technology due to the worsening effects of climate change he has witnessed in his home country, India. He emphasizes the need for impactful climate solutions, stating, “For me, it’s really important to work on a solution that actually has a meaningful, scaled impact on climate change, to actually make a dent on this.”

However, the DAC facility’s capacity to absorb carbon is currently limited, capturing only 1,000 metric tons of CO2 annually. This is only a small fraction of what a gas-fired power plant emits in a year. Nevertheless, Heirloom has set an ambitious goal of removing 1 billion tons by 2035, which presents significant scaling challenges. The company plans to triple its capture capacity each year over the next 12 years to achieve this goal.

Scaling up to such levels requires substantial funding, and the good news is that tech companies are providing significant support for DAC. Microsoft, for example, has entered into a long-term carbon removal agreement with Heirloom. Their deal involves capturing up to 315,000 metric tons of CO2, offsetting Microsoft’s own emissions towards its net-zero targets. Frontier, a carbon removal fund, has also pledged massive support to Heirloom and similar carbon capture ventures. Heirloom is committed to using renewable energy from local providers and refrains from accepting investments from oil majors. They assert that the carbon captured from DAC will not be used to enhance oil extraction, aligning with their principles of responsible environmental stewardship.

Heirloom’s latest achievement includes securing a substantial $600 million award from the Department of Energy to establish a processing hub in Louisiana capable of handling up to a million tons of carbon per year. The agency is also supporting another DAC plant in Texas developed by Occidental Petroleum. Despite these advancements, there are still obstacles to significantly reducing carbon dioxide levels. Direct air capture technology remains costly and demands substantial energy. Additionally, the scale of the atmosphere presents economic challenges. There is uncertainty regarding the complete resolution of the climate crisis, even with the application of all available solutions.

Despite these challenges, Samala remains hopeful that the world will increasingly recognize the important role of DAC in tackling climate change. He compares carbon capture to waste collection, suggesting that people should consider paying for the removal of the carbon they generate. “We need to pay for the CO2 we are putting out there,” he asserts, highlighting the necessity for greater accountability regarding carbon emissions.

Climate-tech startups focusing on carbon emissions technology received $7.6 billion in venture capital funding in Q3 of this year, defying the downward trend in fundraising. Heirloom offers carbon credits that companies and government entities can purchase to offset their emissions. These credits represent an exchange where an individual or company pays for CO2 emissions removed by an entity specializing in carbon capture. Prominent companies such as Stripe, Shopify, Klarna, and Microsoft are among Heirloom’s initial buyers of these credits. The advanced purchasing model allows organizations to offset their emissions by investing in carbon removal initiatives.

Positioned as the first commercial DAC plant in the US, Heirloom’s system leverages the natural properties of limestone, requiring fewer energy-intensive mechanisms compared to conventional DAC systems. Despite the challenges, Heirloom has set ambitious goals and aims to significantly scale up its carbon capture capacity through collaborations with tech giants and substantial funding. The company emphasizes the critical role of DAC in mitigating emissions and fostering a sustainable future.

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons is the founder of Forestry & Carbon. Matt has over 25 years as a forestry consultant and is invoilved in numerous carbon credit offset projects.

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