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Frontier Facilitates First Carbon Removal Purchases
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July 1, 2022 News

 

Earlier this year, Stripe, Alphabet, Shopify, Meta and McKinsey Sustainability launched Frontier, an advance market commitment to accelerate the development of carbon removal technologies. A few months later, after careful review from an advisory panel of 19 scientists and industry experts, Frontier has facilitated its first purchases—from AspiraDAC, Calcite-Origen, Lithos Carbon, RepAir, Travertine and Living Carbon—on behalf of Stripe.

Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is critical to achieving climate goals, alongside radical emissions reductions. Models project that by 2050 we will need to permanently remove billions of tons of CO₂ from the atmosphere every year. To date, fewer than 10,000 tonnes have been removed in total.

Frontier aims to catalyse new solutions that bridge this enormous gap. These initial six companies represent a diverse group of promising, early-stage technologies, and we are pleased to be the first customer for all of them.

The majority of Frontier’s USD $925 million of committed capital will go toward multiyear offtake agreements designed to give the most promising carbon removal solutions a pathway to scale. With an offtake, Frontier’s members agree to pay for future carbon removal supply at the time it’s delivered. However, in order for there to be enough companies eligible for offtakes in future years, we must get a critical mass of promising companies to the starting line now. Over the next few years, low-volume prepurchase—like those we are announcing now—will continue to be an area of focus for Frontier.

Observations from This Purchase Cycle

Several themes emerged from the 26 applications reviewed as part of this round of purchases:

  • Increasing project diversity. A wider variety of solutions is meeting or exceeding our bar for durability. Applications spanned nine distinct approaches to CDR, including direct ocean capture, biomass burial and synthetic biology. We are also seeing increased diversity within each pathway: direct air capture (DAC) applications ranged from electrochemical capture on railcars to modular, solar powered metal-organic framework (MOF) adsorption systems.
  • Electrified DAC. DAC at scale will require huge amounts of energy. An increasing number of projects are using electricity, as opposed to heat, to power their processes. While these approaches tend to be relatively energy-intensive in their early stages, they have the potential to become energy-efficient systems that harness renewable energy as the grid decarbonises.
  • Scalable sources of alkalinity. Because CO₂ is an acidic molecule, rising global CO₂ concentrations can be neutralised by alkalinity. We are encouraged by ideas for safe alkalinity production at scale. One approach, using large-scale waste sources such as mine tailings, could remove up to 0.5 gigatons of CO₂ a year. Alkalinity can also be produced electrochemically, for example, as part of ocean alkalinity enhancement (OAE). We are looking for new ways of improving the energy efficiency of alkalinity production, while considering how the resulting acid coproduct can be managed safely.
  • MRV innovation. Enhanced rock weathering (ERW) and OAE are examples of high-potential, open systems whose effects are intrinsically harder to measure than closed systems (like DAC, where the CO₂ stream can be calculated directly). This means they need to be paired with even stronger measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) methodologies to reduce uncertainty. We are encouraged by the increasing number of projects treating measurement methodologies as part of the core roadmap.

The Projects

Stripe will spend USD $2.4 million buying carbon removal from these six companies, with another USD $5.4 million contingent on projects reaching agreed upon technical milestones. Prices range between USD $500 and USD $1,800 per tonne of carbon removed, and we are excited to be the first customer for all six projects. To view project applications, purchase contracts and renewal criteria, visit Frontier’s GitHub.

AspiraDAC

Direct air capture | Sydney, Australia | 500 tonnes

AspiraDAC is building a modular, solar-powered DAC system with the energy supply integrated into the modules. One of the biggest opportunities for DAC to scale is by increasing its ability to integrate with renewable electricity. AspiraDAC’s modular approach allows it to experiment with a more distributed scale-up. Its MOF sorbent has low temperature heat requirements and cheap material inputs, increasing the likelihood that AspiraDAC can help accelerate the production of lower-cost MOFs, which historically have been expensive and difficult to synthesise.

Calcite-Origen

Direct air capture | US and UK | 278 tonnes

This project blends the novel Calcite air contactor design from 8 Rivers with Origen’s strengths in calcination. Their DAC technology accelerates the natural process of carbon mineralisation by contacting highly reactive slaked lime with ambient air to capture CO₂. The resulting carbonate minerals are calcined to create a concentrated CO₂ stream for geologic storage, and then looped continuously. The inexpensive materials and fast cycle time make this a promising approach to affordable capture at scale.

Lithos

Enhanced weathering | Seattle, US | 640 tonnes

Mineral weathering naturally captures CO₂ at gigaton scale. Lithos accelerates this by spreading basalt on croplands to increase dissolved inorganic carbon with eventual storage as ocean bicarbonate. Its technology uses novel soil models and machine learning to maximize CO₂ removal while boosting crop growth. The team is scaling its empirical verification, river network, and plant-tissue studies to advance measurement of CO₂ drawdown and ecosystem impact. Lithos is focused on the differentiators for building low-cost, high-removal, enhanced weathering—establishing the right supplier and distribution partnerships and, most importantly, developing robust MRV grounded in significant learnings from well-instrumented, long-term field trials.

RepAir

Direct air capture | Tel Aviv, Israel | 199 tonnes

RepAir uses clean electricity to capture CO₂ from the air using a novel electrochemical cell, and then stores the CO₂ underground via a partnership with Carbfix. The demonstrated energy efficiency of RepAir’s capture step is already notable and continues to advance. This approach has the potential to deliver low-cost carbon removal that minimises strain on the electrical grid.

Travertine

Enhanced weathering | Boulder, US | 365 tonnes

Travertine is working to reengineer chemical production for CO₂ removal. Using electrochemistry, Travertine produces sulfuric acid to accelerate the weathering of ultramafic mine tailings, releasing CO₂ reactive elements that convert CO₂ into carbonate minerals that are stable on geologic timescales. Their process also releases metals that are critical to decarbonizing transportation and electricity generation.

Living Carbon

Synthetic biology | San Francisco, US | R&D grant

Living Carbon is developing a novel approach to synthesize a durable biopolymer within algae to sequester atmospheric CO₂ at scale. As a first step, Living Carbon is conducting research to select the optimal algae strain and demonstrate expression and activity of key enzymes of the biopolymer synthesis pathway within the algae. Initial research also aims to better understand how the field thinks about the durability of sporopollenin. Synthetic biology is a nascent but exciting tool for carbon removal that has promise both as a standalone solution like Living Carbon and as an amplifier across pathways like bio-enhanced mineralisation.

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