Nerd rating: 3 (1 to 10 scale on the technical density of the post)
Co-Founder Peter Reinhardt reached out on twitter to note “Would just add that our pyrolyzers will eventually operate as a mobile fleet like combine harvesters, not permanent sites”
This has been added below as well for context
Some personal news, I am staying at Breakthrough Energy and will now be in a dedicated carbon management position, or as I am calling it, carbon middle management.
I know the folks over at Charm Industrial and have spoken with them on several occasions. They didn’t ask me to write this; they don’t even know I’m writing it. I find their process and thesis incredibly interesting and promising. And if you have a particular company or organization, you would like highlighted. Let me know.
The importance of BECCS
As we saw last week, Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage/Sequestration will need to play an essential piece in the climate change mitigation regime. The RMI figure remains relevant to the level set exactly how big of a role BECCS will play in removals.
You can quibble with the data that goes into the analysis, which is entirely fair. But BECCS will play a leading role in removals in the future, and as of now, it is the only technology that has obtained and used Class VI injection permits(saline aquifers) in the United States.
Furthermore, the latest IPCC report outlines the benefits and risks of BECCS.
This report lays bare the importance of BECCS with the below passage:
We’ve got plenty of evidence to support the role of BECCS in a net-zero future. There are some questions about the biological limitations BECCS can play, i.e., is there enough biomass in the world to burn and sequester? That’s a valid criticism but is best discussed in the Net Zero America Study by Jesse Jenkins and his team at Princeton.
The second to last bullet is very important and drives home the rebuttal of the biological or ecological limits of BECCS “this involves some agricultural food land being converted to energy crops.” We are paying farmers to do what they do best, grow crops, except now the yields are for energy, not food.
What do I find so charming about Charm Industrial? This graph is a good start.
Charm is sequestering the carbon right now. They have had purchases from significant removal private players, including Stripe, Shopify, and Microsoft. Unlike advance market commitments (where you get upfront funding for later removals) like the newest Stripe fund, link above, these removals have been paid for and sequestered. Since Charm is sequestering in the subsurface, the permanence is much better than soil or forest sequestration. You pump things underground in high-pressure and temperature environments, and they tend to stay there.
They also have a unique entry point into the BECCS market. Many BECCS projects are focused on producing ethanol and/or hydrogen or biomass for power production. And Charm initially was looking at the biomass to pure hydrogen pathway but pivoted to a carbon removal-focused business.
Alongside the removal strategy, they have innovative biomass: take the scraps. Because Charm has focused on creating bio-fuel, as opposed to a pure stream of CO2 as the output, they can use agriculture waste for their input. This means shells, husks, bPeranches, etc., which are readily abundant.
And even more attractive, from a revenue and business longevity perspective, is their future workstreams. Given their expertise and technology, they can go the hydrogen fuel cell route, the removals route, and/or the refining for ammonia or steel route. With the world's focus shifting more and more towards decarbonization, these streams only get more valuable as time goes on.
So in total, Charm:
Is current removing carbon successfully
The removals have an excellent permanence
It has a unique technology/entry point
The technology capitalizes on what would otherwise be waste, making a cheap input
Future revenue streams in multiple sectors
Charm's challenges are not much different from any removal-focused company. Private purchases are setting growth in removals, this is helpful, but in a world where you can get cheap(and I would say terrible) removals for $7, Charms cost of around $600/ton seems high. We need procurement on a scale that only federal governments can do to drive down these costs. Luckily for those in the United States, Rep. Tonko and Rep. Peters have introduced a bill to do just that, link above.
Charm also needs to be able to locate and transport their cheap waste inputs. This makes the siting of their facilities very important. They can get cheap biomass from the corn-producing plains states and/or assist in wildfire suppression efforts by using understory waste from forests; however, due to the transportation costs, it could be prohibitive unless they are sited next to or close to the waste. However, as Peter noted to be on twitter “Would just add that our pyrolyzers will eventually operate as a mobile fleet like combine harvesters, not permanent sites”. This makes the siting of the facilities much less of an issue.
Adjacent to being near waste, they will also need to find more waste. Jenkins group provides a solution to that problem by having farmers grow crops specifically to be used in processes like Charms. In this way, farmers are doing what they are already doing for ethanol.
Charm is a unique and exciting removal business. They have an expert staff, a solid business strategy, and the backing of the scientific community in the necessity of their technology. We must enact policy to incentivize them, and other BECCS groups, because we need them.
Next week: New IPPC report; who cares?
https://twitter.com/CharmIndustrial The company spotlight
https://twitter.com/kellyghering Charm’s co-founder
https://twitter.com/reinpk Charm’s co-founder
https://twitter.com/logiclow Charm’s co-founder