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Carbon capture startups Terraformation, Twelve, and Brilliant Planet to speak at SOSV Climate Summit
Richard Ellis
Richard Ellis

With the world emitting about 50 gigatons of CO2e per year, IPCC scientists are convinced that a climate disaster is unavoidable unless we remove carbon from the atmosphere. So too is the White House, which increased the 45Q tax credit for carbon capture in the Inflation Reduction Act (aka, the climate bill) from $50 to $85 per ton for the industrial sector, and to $180 per ton for direct air capture. At least 226 startups are working on carbon capture, but it still costs too much—from hundreds of dollars to over a thousand. Is there a way to bridge that gap at scale? 

The SOSV Climate Tech Summit (Oct. 25-26) gathered a panel of carbon capture founders to explore this question. You can play back their discussion below.

Dr. Raffael Jovine is founder and Chief Scientist of Brilliant Planet, which captures carbon by farming algae on coastal desert land. Powered by sun, seawater, and cheap nutrients, algae pools might be able to capture CO2 at less than $50 per ton according to Brilliant Planet. Its investors include Union Square Ventures (part of our early-stage VC panel) and Toyota Ventures, which co-led Brilliant Planet’s $12M Series A in April 2022.

Terraformation, founded by former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong, aims to  reforest 3 billion acres of land with 1 trillion trees, potentially storing some 100 gigatons of CO2. Its full-stack approach includes seed banks, nursery kits, software, training, financing, and solar-powered desalination. Following a $30M Series A led by Sam and Max Altman at Apollo Projects, Terraformation now hopes to raise a $100M fund for reforestation in the developing world. 

Perhaps Twelve, co-founded by Chief Science Officer Dr. Etosha Cave, can address the financial pain of carbon capture by upcycling CO2 into petrochemicals—without using fossil fuels. Twelve’s electrochemical reactor replicates photosynthesis to make chemicals, materials, and fuels for customers like Mercedes-Benz, Procter & Gamble, Alaska Airlines, and the U.S. Air Force. Twelve has raised $200M to date with backers including DCVC, Capricorn Investment Group, Carbon Direct Capital, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, and Breakout Ventures.

The panel was moderated by Tim De Chant, Senior Climate Editor at TechCrunch, who has covered the carbon capture space extensively. 

Commercializing carbon capture has proven to be exceedingly difficult. What will it take to break through the cost and scalability barriers? 

Learn more about the Summit. 

Dr. Raffael Jovine is the Founder & Chief Scientist of Brilliant Planet. He has worked at Yale, MIT, UCSB & Wood Hole Oceanographic where he studied natural algal blooms. He has been working on algal photosynthesis since the beginning of his academic studies. In 2008 he was granted a patent for a “Method of Carbon Sequestration” which replicates natural algal blooms year-round, on land, using free resources – and – this method is highly scalable.

Yishan Wong is bringing Silicon Valley’s expertise in scaling to the climate movement. Dedicated to restoring the planet’s forests to solve climate change, Yishan leads Terraformation to build and deploy tools to tackle the largest bottlenecks to mass-scale reforestation. Terraformation’s technology includes off-grid seed banks that process and store millions of seeds, tracking and monitoring platforms to enable project transparency, solar-powered desalination, and more.

Dr. Etosha Cave is co-founder and CSO of Twelve, a new kind of chemical company built for the climate era that is making everyday products from air, not oil. Etosha is an Accel Innovation Scholar, an Echoing Green Fellow, and a Smithsonian Institution Innovator to Watch. Twelve was supported in their seed stage by Activate with an entrepreneurial fellowship at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and by Elemental Excelerator.

Tim De Chant is a senior climate reporter at TechCrunch and the founder of Future Proof, a publication covering climate and energy. He is also a lecturer in MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing and has written for Wired magazine, The Wire China, the Chicago Tribune, and NOVA Next, among others. De Chant was awarded a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT in 2018, and he received his doctorate in environmental science, policy, and management from the University of California, Berkeley.

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