FOCUS-Made-from-CO2 concrete, lululemons and diamonds spark investor excitement

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Oct 4 (Businesshala) – What do diamonds, sunglasses, high-end Lululemon sportswear and concrete have to do with climate change?

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All of these can be created using carbon dioxide (CO2), which gives off the gas that warms the planet. And the tech startups behind these changes are grabbing investors’ attention.

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Some use bacteria. Some use protein. Some use chemical processes to speed up natural reactions. Most separate carbon and oxygen into CO2 to form another chemical that is used to make goods to consumers.

Companies in the sector have raised more than $800 million so far this year, more than three times as much as 2020, according to a Businesshala review of data from Pitchbook, Circular Carbon Network, CleanTech Group and Climate Tech VC.

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Ryan Shearman, chief executive of Ather Diamonds, said, “I don’t want to call it a green tax, but our consumers who really care … have demonstrated that they are willing to pay a little bit of a premium.” Using CO2 captured in the laboratory.

On the opposite end of the glamor spectrum, the concrete industry, green is also good for marketing, said Robert Niven, CEO of CarbonCure Technologies, which makes technology that injects CO2 into fresh concrete, and strengthens it by locking in carbon. Is.

“About 90% of our uptake is from independent concrete producers big and small who are just looking for that competitive edge.”

According to UN estimates, the world needs to capture and store 10 billion tons of CO2 annually by mid-century to slow climate change, a scale that companies can only dream of, when current carbon capture pilots often occur on the scale of hundreds and thousands of tons. .

Humans produce about 50 billion tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases each year, and governments will gather in Scotland in late October and November for the United Nations Climate Conference on Emission Reductions.

According to a report from Columbia University in May, all fossil-based products that could use recycled CO2 are responsible for about 6.8 billion tons of emissions. Here, although lead author Amar Bhardwaj said that trying to swap them all “would be an abuse of CO2 recycling,” as there are cheaper ways to reduce carbon emissions.

Nicholas Flanders, co-founder of Twelve, which uses chemical processes to reuse CO2, says recycling captured CO2 is better than storing it underground. “We are developing a technology that can go toe-to-toe with fossil fuels” without additional financial incentives to remove carbon.

This is because many consumers are attracted to the “green” label.

Lululemon Athletica Inc. says it has partnered with Lanzatec to create a carbon-emitting polyester yarn that will be used for future products. LanzaTech, which has raised the most money of companies in the space, according to a Businesshala review, makes ethanol using bacteria. Ethanol is converted into ethylene which is used to make everything from plastic bottles to polyester.

CEO Jennifer Holmgren said Lanzatec’s ethanol is more expensive than corn-based ethanol, but customers looking to source greener products are buying.

The biggest investment in the space this year, more than $350 million, was in Houston-based SoluGen, which feeds CO2 and other ingredients to enzymes that make chemicals for strong cement, water pipe coatings and other products.

Its products are already cheaper than those made from fossil fuels, said CEO Gaurav Chakraborty. Still, it’s not sourcing factory emissions or the CO2 derived from the air, which Chakraborty described as “an option.”

Capturing CO2 is a less attractive prospect for many investors, who think the government should be funding such expensive, high-risk projects.

However, Nicholas Moore Eisenberger, managing partner at Pure Energy Partners, who has invested in direct air capture firm Global Thermostat, sees the opportunity in the need and believes that once the projects get bigger, they will be cheaper.

“Science tells us that we have less than a decade to start turning the curve on the climate, and it is now within the investment time frame of most enterprise and private equity investors,” Eisenberger said.

Reporting by Jen Lanhi Lee and Nia Williams; Editing by Peter Henderson and Margarita Choy

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