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Bill Gates's Carbon Removal Company Is Opening for Business

Graphyte could become the world's largest carbon removal facility, though it's still early days for the climate mitigation technology.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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Graphyte, a carbon removal startup backed by Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures, is set to kick off operations at its Arkansas-based plant on Friday, February 9.

The company's "carbon casting" technology involves drying and compressing biomass from timber and agricultural by-products into blocks roughly the size of shoeboxes. The blocks are then covered in an impermeable barrier, buried underground, and monitored to prevent decomposition. This eliminates potential emissions created when the biomass is burned or left to decompose. Friday's milestone for the one-year-old company launches its goal of removing 15,000 metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere by the end of 2024, plus an additional 50,000 in 2025, ClimateWire reported.

"Graphyte's first facility producing carbon casting blocks this week will become the largest carbon removal company in the world in the next several months and alone will remove 50,000 tons next year," Graphyte CEO Barclay Rogers wrote in an email. "This is not a hypothetical, this is happening as we speak."

The company is still waiting on permits needed to actually bury its blocks, ClimateWire reported. 

Graphyte claims its innovation will allow for the removal of carbon at the cost of about $100 per ton. Carbon removal via direct air capture, by contrast, can cost anywhere from $600 to $1,000, according to the World Economic Forum. The startup predicts its method will keep captured carbon out of the atmosphere for more than 1,000 years.

Graphyte boasts investment from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which counts Gates, Bezos, Alibaba's Jack Ma, Virgin Group's Richard Branson and hedge fund manager Ray Dalio on its board or among its investors. It already inked a deal in November 2023 with American Airlines, which paid for the removal of 10,000 tons of CO2.

Innovations in carbon removal and carbon capture - two distinct, but related, strategies - have become increasingly attractive against the looming threat of climate change.

The Biden administration's special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry, for example, mentioned carbon capture as one possible solution to "the unmitigated burning of fossil fuel" during the World Economic Forum in January. John Podesta will replace him as climate envoy likely by early spring. 

Carbon removal, which traps from the atmosphere or biomass, has also attracted criticism. Skeptics say carbon removal technology is immature, expensive and operates at too small a scale to make much of a dent in the global carbon footprint.

Graphyte's Rogers agreed that the industry has a scale issue, saying in an email that "the carbon removal market needs to scale to the crucial goal of removing 75 million tons of carbon dioxide annually in the next six years. Considering our industry is currently supplying on the order of 200,000 tons of Co2 removal annually, we need solutions that can make very significant leaps, in a very short period of time."

Photo Credit: Getty Images.

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