In this episode of Hardware to Save a Planet, Dylan is joined by Luke Shors, Co-Founder of Capture6. This company offers a novel and scalable solution to direct air capture (DAC) for removing atmospheric carbon dioxide. This solution will help move the needle toward the IPCC goal of removing eight gigatons of atmospheric CO2 by 2050. Listen to the podcast to learn more about the challenges in the DAC space, a deep dive into Luke’s solution, and the future of the DAC industry.
Luke’s background is a mix of technology, entrepreneurship, and academia. A Harvard Graduate and Doctor of Engineering, Luke is currently the Co-Founder and President of Capture6. He is passionate about sustainability and has been associated with the World Bank on several projects.
To learn more about the scalable solution for decarbonizing atmospheric CO2, check the key takeaways of this episode or the transcript below.
- [08:59 – 12:05] – The Challenges in Achieving Atmospheric Decarbonization Goals – Luke mentions that the challenges start with the reticence in the climate community about investing in this space because it is seen as a trade-off versus investments in Mitigation. The IPCC report was highly critical of the lack of global adoption, without which we won’t resolve the issue on the Mitigation clock. Another challenge has been the scalability of projects in this space, the cost per ton of decarbonizing and the energy required to decarbonize creates a CO2 footprint of its own.
- [16:39 – 17:04] – A Deep Dive into the Capture6 Solution – Luke mentions that when starting, they wanted to adopt a process that circumvented the typical challenges in DAC. The solution needed to be driven by renewable energy, so energy supply would be intermittent. A sorbent adsorbs the atmospheric CO2, and instead of using a customized sorbent with supply chain issues, they chose to use sodium hydroxide, which has a natural affinity to CO2. Now all that was required was plenty of salt water and electricity. Listen to the podcast as Luke deep-dives into how their solution works.
- [17:10 – 19:23] – The Hardware of the Solution – Luke explains that they take salt water and strip out the salt and then use electrochemistry to break apart the water molecule into hydrogen and hydroxide. Then the sodium is mixed back in to create sodium hydroxide. At this point, they use cooling towers to expose the sodium hydroxide to atmospheric CO2, and the CO2 absorption is an exothermic reaction that happens spontaneously. As new membranes and technologies are developed, these can be incorporated into the process. The entire process has been successfully modeled in Aspen, which helps validate the process with industry experts and the VCs.
- [30:01 – 33:35] – Learnings While Building the Physical System – Luke explains that they are confident the solution will work because of all the modeling and the fact that they are working with known and proven systems. However, there will be some learnings and challenges when integrating the sub-systems. He also mentions that they’re kicking off tests for specific process parts, like the Air Contactor step. Along the way, they will also need to integrate sensors and IoT devices for monitoring.
Dylan: Hardware to Save A Planet explores the technical innovations that are giving us hope in the fight against climate change. Each episode focuses on a specific climate challenge and explores an emerging physical technology solution with a person bringing it into reality. I’m your host, Dylan Garrett.
Dylan: Hello, and welcome to Hardware to save a planet. I’m excited to be sitting down with Luke Shors today, co-founder and president of Capture6, about their approach to removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Our top priority in fighting climate change is reducing our emissions, but the latest IPCC report from March made it very clear that on top of that, we also need to be removing CO2 that is already in the atmosphere. The prediction is that we need to remove something like eight to ten gigatons of CO2 by 2050. Today, outside of some nature based solutions like reforestation and afforestation, we’re removing almost nothing relative to that goal. So we have a huge scale up challenge. One of the many approaches to that is Direct Air Capture, or DAC, which is about filtering CO2 out of the air where it is in very low concentration using engineered systems. DAC is an attractive form of CO2 removal, but there are a lot of challenges to scaling it sufficiently and at an affordable cost per ton. Luke and Capture6 have a unique approach that I’m excited to learn more about and to introduce Luke quickly, I’ll say that scrolling through his LinkedIn makes me feel like I really need to get out and do something with my life. His background is a mix of technology, entrepreneurship, and academia, and it looks to me like he has dedicated his career to making an impact on both global health and climate. Luke, it’s really an honor to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.
Luke: Thank you very much, Dylan. It’s great to be here.
Dylan: So just thinking of your LinkedIn profile for a sec because I was just kind of scrolling through and doing a little background research on you. One of the first things on there is volunteering in the Peace Corps in Nepal. For two years, you were improving water sanitation, and then it looks like for a period of your career after that you had global health related roles. We don’t need to go step by step, but I’m curious how your career evolved from that to what seems to me right now to be a very clear focus on fighting climate change and carbon dioxide removal.
Luke: Yeah. A few years ago, my wife gave me a journal with the Jrr Tolkien quote on it. Not all those who wander are lost. So yes, I have done a variety of quite distinct things, but the Peace Corps experience was certainly formative in that I was working on water sanitation issues in Nepal because of the overtapping of the aquifers in the Gangetic floodplain. There’s too much arsenic. So it was an environmental problem. It was a public health problem. But it was also eye opening because the time I was there was in the midst of Nepal’s civil war. So seeing the challenges of implementing projects in these very complex contexts took away the kind of naivety I had and how easy it was to kind of make change. I have been attracted to these sort of multisector problems that don’t maybe neatly fall across categories. So my sort of foray into the climate space was on the issue of black carbon. So I did a report for the OECD, and that’s a fascinating topic in that you have cook stoves, which are a major source of indoor air pollution and that has effects on emphysema and asthma, but at the same time, when it lands on snow, it affects surface albedo. And so these are interesting problems in that they’re not which camp do they fall on? Is this a health problem? Is this a climate problem? And sometimes the way the world silos up ministries of health or ministries of the environment, it’s not clear. Like, this is a hot potato. Whose problem is this? So I had the opportunity to do a fellowship in energy and the environment when I was doing my doctorate. And from there I’ve sort of done a mixture of work in multilateral organizations like the World Bank, but I’ve also had a few opportunities to be involved in startups. And startups, of course, are exciting in part because they’re very agile. You don’t have layers and layers of bureaucracy to negotiate with. So for me, this current role at Capture6 is a wonderful blend of something that’s both a social mission but preserves that kind of flexibility and creativity and nimbleness of a startup.
Dylan: Just quickly, you mentioned black carbon. Is that different from because we’ve talked before on the show about carbon black and how at least my introduction to it was methane pyrolysis, carbon black as kind of an output of that process. Is it the same thing or is that something different?
Luke: It’s been quite a while since I’ve been involved in this particular research, so my nomenclature may be a bit outdated. But when I did this work for the OECD with a friend, it was looking specifically at the forcings that were coming from these cook stoves and biomass burning because there’s many low income countries that have very little emissions. It was sort of what were the sources of climate forcing that these countries were contributing. And one of them was the soot that was basically airborne from biomass burning.
Dylan: Okay, so you have a pretty broad view of global challenges and climate challenges specifically. Prior to founding Carbon6, were you looking to do something specifically in DAC and Direct Air capture? Had you identified that as kind of the place you felt you wanted to make your impact next, or how did that happen?
Luke: Full disclosure, no. Like many things in life, there was a bit of circumstance and luck in this all. Yeah.
Dylan: You’re a wanderer.
Luk: My co-founder, whose name is Ethan Cohen-Cole, I’ve been friends with him for a long time and our families rented an Airbnb in Utah in the Pandemic. And Ethan is so bright and meticulous. Even before there was rapid testing, he brought his own pipette centrifuges, and had done his own research and collaboration with scientists on how to do rapid testing. So we all did rapid testing for COVID, got negative results and hung out together for a week. Did a lot of hikes in the Canyonlands area. So on one hike we had just been chatting for a long time and I’ve always kind of respected his demeanor, his intellectual kind of firepower and everything else. And so I said to him, ethan, if you ever wanted to collaborate on anything, I’d be really excited by that. And he reached out a few months later and asked if I was still interested. And we started passing ideas back and forth, and this was a space that he had been thinking a lot about. And just as we looked at the different things that we could collaborate on, this sort of came to the forefront.
Dylan: Nice. And that was I think I saw you were founded officially in 2021, so it’s been a couple of years.
Luke: Yeah, so this was kind of mid 2021, and we officially incorporated in December 2021. I’m based in New Zealand, so we did a climate incubator here at the start of 2022, and then six weeks into that incubator, we had raised $3 million. And I’ve really been off to the races since. Cool. So I went from a side project to a very full project quite quickly.
Dylan: Pretty quickly. Well, that seems to be a common theme in this space. Things are moving very quickly, which kind of gets to my next question, I guess, is there seems to be so much energy going into DAC right now specifically, and I mean, CDR generally and climate tech even more generally, but DAC specifically, there’s so much energy, a lot of kind of tailwinds from the IRA in the US. And a lot of investor interests and everything. I’m curious to get your perspective. We’re at zero almost now, right? We’re basically starting at zero, and we need to get to whatever it is, eight to ten gigatons removed per year by 2050. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the industry to get there?
Luke: Yeah, I mean, as you say, I think the IPCC report in March, April was really critical because without that global endorsement that this was negative emissions technologies were necessary because of the sort of brutal math we’re facing on the Mitigation clock. I think there was a lot of reticence in the climate community about investing in space because it was seen as a trade-off versus investments in Medication. And I think the IPCC saying that the math just doesn’t work at this point. And so although we may want to say, of course we agree that mitigation is the most important activity, it’s simply not enough. And so we can’t, at this point, kind of bury our heads in the sand and say, all we’re going to do is mitigate. So that was critical in the US context. The IRA is obviously important, but we’re not going to get to eight to ten gigatons with action in the US. Alone. So although many of the DAC companies are really focused on building their largest facility in the United States right now, we do have to remember there’s a lot of countries in the globe, and the economics have to work across the world. I think there’s been a challenge in that. In my opinion. There’s some sort of muddled nomenclature on this topic and public perception. And some of that is just the ambiguity of the term carbon capture, which is applied to all sorts of things. Right. And so if you’re doing point source carbon capture on a new natural gas facility, at best, that can be carbon neutral. That’s still not really been proven at the scale of these facilities. And so green Lightning a new gas project, there’s risk there if the carbon capture doesn’t work, versus DAC. If you build a new DAC project and it fails, what has happened? You’ve failed to draw down CO2. So kind of regarding those as equivalent, even though technically they can be quite similar in their methodology for capturing the CO2, they’re conceptually very different. And I think in the public opinion, they’re often seen as the same. And I think the way they’re regarded by things like the IRA, which provides a tax credit for both, even if the tax credit for DAC is higher, kind of contributes to that confusion. And certainly we have calls or webinars where someone will be quite agitated and angry about what we’re doing, believing, I think, that we’re essentially a fig leaf for more oil and gas activity, failing to really distinguish between DAC and other forms of carbon capture.
Dylan: Yeah, okay. Right. It’s a very important distinction that carbon capture is primarily used as an emission reduction technique. Right. You’re taking emissions directly from point sources. And the public perception for that is that it’s enabling more oil and gas proliferation. But DAC is specifically not point source capture. It’s specifically about capturing or removing CO2 from atmospheric concentrations.
Luke: Yes. And I mean, of course, to your question, there’s also technical challenges. I mean, the sort of irony is that 420 parts per million, there’s too much CO2 in the atmosphere. And to do DAC to capture those 422 parts, then you have to passively or actively sift through those million parts. Right. And to do that, A, you have to use renewable energy, otherwise you’re effectively chasing your tail. And B, you have to do that in a way that you’re not diverting that renewable energy in a way that perpetuates fossil fuels on the grid. And so both of those are significant challenges.
Dylan: Yeah, I saw an article that was trying to kind of quantify just how much air you have to sift through to get one ton of CO2. And it was more than the Houston AstroDome. So this massive stadium full of air, you have to sift through all of that air to get one ton of CO2, which was just, for me, a really helpful visual. Like, just to your point, it’s very, very low concentrations. And then that, like you said, turns into an energy challenge. Moving that much air takes a lot of energy.
Luke: Yeah. I think in this space generally, it’s hard for us to get our heads around these numbers, myself included. When we say 8 billion tons of removal annually by 2050, that’s a massive number. I think I looked that up, and that was some many, many multiples of the weight of the Great Wall of China. When we were sort of doing our back of the envelope calculations, like, is this really feasible? Could you really get there? Our first idea was to put this on decommissioned oil and gas rigs, of which there are about 12,000 in the world. We thought we could do about a million tons of DAC on a given rig. And then, because we produce a carbonate, if we could deploy the carbonate in the right way, and this is something we’re actively researching as an ocean alkalinity enhancement vehicle, we could draw in another million tons. So for a given oil rig, you could do 2 million tons. And if you could do that on 25% of those, well, that’s 6 billion tons. And so it’s helpful to just think, is it hard? Absolutely. But is it conceivable? Is it? Yes. And I think we have things like the Human Genome Project, which was originally estimated to take 100 years, and it was done in ten. Right. So there are these things where they seem inconceivable that when I was growing up, solar was powering my little graphing calculator. Right. But now it’s powering cities. So I think it’s important to recognize that even though this is small, now, we have examples of which we’ve managed to scale things quite fast.
Dylan: Right. Yeah. I’m glad you brought up solar, because one thing I hear a lot about in this space is that solar, we need to reduce the cost of DAC pretty dramatically. And solar is almost a model for that, just the amount of cost reduction we’ve seen over the last several decades. And solar is essentially the path this DAC needs to follow, maybe faster. But at least to your point, it kind of makes it seem potentially feasible. Let’s talk about your specific solution. So I think there’s kind of a typical DAC, even though this is a really nascent industry. But typically what I hear about when people talk about DAC is you have essentially a substrate with a sorbent deposited on it. You’re blowing air through that substrate. The substrate is kind of designed so it has maximum surface area. You’re blowing air through it. The sorbet absorbs CO2 or absorbs CO2, and then you typically use heat or other mechanisms to desorb that CO2. So there’s kind of the cycle of adsorbing and dissorbing. I understand you have a different approach, but I’d love to hear from you what it looks like.
Luke: Yeah, so when we were starting out and we were thinking about what our approach was going to be, the approach you describe has potentially a few limitations. One, that process of heating up your sorbent to rerelease the CO2 requires you to maintain calciners and things that require constant high heat. And how do you do that purely based upon intermittent power?
Dylan: Intermittent? Because it’s renewable, you mean because you’re dependent on intermittent renewable energy.
Luke: Got you. Yeah, I mean, it’s probably not a coincidence that Climeworks Orcaplant was based in Iceland where there’s ample geothermal resources. But if you’re thinking globally, then what you really want is a system that can operate on a purely renewable resource that’s intermittent. So that was one there’s this quote by I don’t know if you know this author, W. Brian author, but he wrote this book called The Nature of Technology, and there was this quote that stuck out at me that was, engineers solve well defined problems. And so the sort of first pass of this problem is like pulling CO2 from the air. And then maybe a second pass is, well, how do you do that in a way that you can do this off intermittent power? So then that was kind of the second gate that our kind of solution had to cross. And then we also didn’t want something that was dependent on really complex supply chains. We wanted something that was pretty simple. And so our ultimate solution is not to kind of manufacture a proprietary sorbent, which is typically what you read about the newspaper article says researchers at University X have designed a new sorbent that has this and that property. So we went with sodium hydroxide, which has been known for over 100 years as something that, when exposed to CO2, will bond with it. That in and of itself is not an innovation. The innovation is how do you produce sodium hydroxide in large quantities, very, very cheaply. And then we don’t regenerate that solvent. So instead, what we do is we form carbonates with it, an acid byproduct, and then we do things with those. And so instead of constantly regenerating our solvent, we are just constantly producing it. So it is a linear process and not a regenerative process.
Dylan: I see. So you’re not outputting a concentrated stream of CO2. The output of your process is this carbonate.
Luke: That’s right. And because of our selection in technology, all we really need is salt water and electricity. So there’s no complex supply chains. And as it turns out, most startups one way or another have some pivots. And we have not necessarily had a pivot per se, but we recognized that using up salt could be a benefit, but we sort of underestimated the extent to which that was a benefit when we were sort of conceiving of this approach. And what we found in projects is actually the cost of dealing with salt can be really high. And so by converting it into an inert carbonate, we’ve dealt with an environmental problem almost as a side effect of our process, and that has economic value.
Dylan: Okay, so you’re saying there are places where salt is essentially a waste product that people are paying to deal with today?
Dylan: And you’re using it as an input.
Luke: They’re paying more than the cost of carbon capture or carbon credits on the voluntary market. So particularly, I mean, climate change both is widely predicted to exacerbate water scarcity and the unpredictability of water. And so more than half of the world’s population is supposed to be in areas where there’s vulnerability in water supply by 2050. And so the consequence of this is that water treatment systems desalinization is being developed everywhere. And for desalination or even water treatment systems inland, frequently there is a highly concentrated salty brine stream that’s left as you desalinate the water. And so the two things you can really do with that is you can, one, dump it in the ocean, and if you do that, you risk killing all the fish. And the more desalination plants you build in a region, the more fish you kill. Right. Or you can get a huge plot of land and have these salt evaporation ponds. And then once the water is evaporated, then you truck the salt somewhere for storage. But both of those are very costly. They’re environmentally problematic. And so the fact that we can eliminate that salt, actually our first project that is greenlit now in Southern California, in the La County, in the Palmdale Water District, they are excited about our solution, in large part because of our ability to eliminate the brine.
Dylan: Awesome. Okay, so you’ve solved one of the big problems I’ve heard about is a challenge to scale, which is the supply chain of the sorbent. And like you said, there’s a lot of talk about some new sorbent coming online. It’s developed in a lab and has these great properties, but it exists in grams of the sorbent that then we need to figure out how to scale that up to however much we need and produce enough. So you’ve solved that problem in that we have plenty of this salty brine as your input and you’re also not purely dependent on the economics of selling carbon removal credits.
Luke: Yeah, I think the other problem we’ve taken steps to solving right, as most people know, like climate change, is the ultimate example of a tragedy of the commons problem. Right. But if you’re doing carbon removal, communities are always going to say, or many communities are going to say, okay, we support this, we support direct air capture, we want to deal with climate change. But does the facility have to be here? Right. And so if you’re going to get to gigaton scale, it’s not just a technical obstacle you have to overcome, but you actually have to want you have to have communities that want this to see value in it.
Dylan: Right, okay. So you might actually make desalination economically viable in a place where it doesn’t exist today, providing clean water to that community. Got you.
Luke: Yeah. And then, I mean, there’s other kinds of interesting nuances. Like, not all countries have the class VI wells for storing CO2. So, for instance, Japan and Korea have limited land based opportunities for injection of CO2. So if your process is to do that, then you really need to load the CO2 on a boat and then send it somewhere else for injection. And then, of course, that incurs lots of additional costs. So when you convert it to calcium carbonate, our first step is to convert it to sodium carbonate, which itself is an input to water treatment facilities. So we create this output, which, through a kind of circular economy, is then an input to the water treatment. Then it precipitates out as calcium carbonate, which is kind of a stable mineralized storage solution. And then you can pile that in a corner. I mean, of course you have to do rigorous monitoring, but it’s fundamentally easy to measure how much CO2 you’ve captured because there’s an exact relationship between the weight of the calcium carbonate and CO2 captured, and then you don’t have to kind of inject it into some class VI well.
Dylan: Well, will it be in volumes big enough that it’ll be a challenge to figure out where to put it?
Luke: I mean, you can create a big mountain of calcium carbonate. In an ideal world, what we would want is that we have a permanent storage for the CO2 in calcium carbonate, but then we also do something with that. So we’ve been discussing with some low carbon cement researchers how that could be an aggregate for cement. So not only are you capturing the CO2, but then you’re actually reducing the emissions from cement. And so the epiphany on this in particular came to me when I was speaking to a Climate Change Commission missioner minister, and he was saying, we can’t trade off mitigation for carbon removal. Right. So from a policy perspective, if they have their three buckets of carbon removal, mitigation and climate adaptation and resilience, they’re thinking about how to spread their money across those. And if that’s sort of a zero sum investment, then any investment in carbon removal comes at the expense of mitigation or resilience. And that’s where we started to think creatively about. Was it possible to do projects that did all three. Like, could we do projects that reduce the emissions from a Desalination facility by providing lower carbon inputs, capturing carbon, and then doing something with the outputs in a way that actually enhanced resiliency as well as building resiliency through generating clean water. And if we could bring these together, then a policy level, it was easy to find support because it’s suddenly not imposing this trade off in climate investments.
Dylan: Sounds brilliant. Yeah. Compared to other things I’ve heard about it, it sounds like it addresses a lot of the challenges other technologies face. So your business model, then, you’re not building Desalination plants. You’re partnering with at least today, you’re partnering with existing Desalination plants. And then are you also selling carbon credits? Is that part of the model?
Luke: Certainly it is, but because of this very strong synergy with water treatment, we are able to initiate projects without an assigned buyer for the carbon credits on day one. That’s really helpful because there’s still some immaturity in the carbon credit market. You’re still often competing with these credits that have permanence issues or additionality issues. There are lots of actors that are trying to fix those problems, and we’re part of coalitions that are doing that. But we can sort of initiate projects without that buyer on day one because there’s relatively few that have committed to these types of projects. So every DAC company is chasing Microsoft and the Frontier Coalition, and we are too, but we’re not quite as dependent on them as a pre purchaser of our credits to launch projects.
Dylan: That’s amazing. And that probably also means you can be. I think one of the reasons that there are so many DAC companies focused on the US is to take advantage of those subsidies through the IRA. What is it, $180 per ton under 45 Q.
Luke: That’s right. Yeah. And that’s fabulous, but we can’t rest the fate of 1.5 Celsius on the continuance of 45 Q and other countries doing that.
Dylan: So that also makes you globally applicable. You’re not dependent on that subsidy or that voluntary carbon market. So you could go to other geographies.
Luke: Yeah. Like another version of our process, after we produce the carbonates, we can actually inject from a point source, so we can do a hybrid DAC CCS process. And so in countries like New Zealand, where there’s a significant tax penalty for emissions, we can launch a project here. So countries have a different blend of carrots and sticks, and 45 Q is the ultimate carrot. But we can be kind of flexible on that. Makes sense, that mix of carrots and sticks.
Dylan: Yeah. I want to understand the physical aspect of your technology a little bit, and maybe this is a silly question, but my mental model for DAC is blowing air through filters over these solids. Sorbents it sounds like you’re working with a salt brine and then turning that into sodium hydroxide. Are you bubbling atmospheric air through a water solution through a Liquid solution? What does that look like?
Luke: So first I’ll say one of the great joys in this space is that it’s possible to find really excellent people to work on it who are both really smart and also really passionate about the topic. So we have now a 17 person team and every single person is fantastic. So this is all a big caveat to say I’m not an engineer. And typically with these types of questions on calls, with investors or on projects, I suddenly put myself on mute and let someone else talk.
Dylan: Can phone a friend.
Luke: That’s right. But at a general level we take a salt water input, we strip out the salt. We use electrochemistry to break apart the water molecule into hydrogen and hydroxide and then we mix the sodium back in to create sodium hydroxide. So now at that point we use cooling towers to expose the sodium hydroxide to CO2 in the air. That’s an exothermic reaction. It happens spontaneously. So if you start asking me about the energetics of that reaction or whatever, I’m getting a little out of my depth, don’t worry. But what I’ll say is my partner Ethan, who was a finance professor and a regulator at the Federal Reserve. He’s an economist by training but seems to enjoy reading detailed chemistry papers for fun. But we didn’t necessarily come at this as design a new membrane or whatever and that was intentional. That wasn’t just because we weren’t research scientists. It was also because we think the market exists to build big things now. And so of course as new membranes and technologies are developed we can incorporate them. But we wanted to know what is the commercialized technology at scale that’s being used in other applications that we can bring together to accomplish this task. Now one of the consequences of that choice is that there’s very, very sophisticated chemical simulation models that allow us to kind of put together these flows of how this process is going to work in a way that we can be quite confident of the results. So when we tell someone, okay, we’ve modeled this particular configuration in Aspen Plus and this is what we get, someone in the industry says, okay, great because they already have a great deal of confidence in that simulation. Meanwhile, when we talk to some VCs that are maybe less familiar with climate tech and more come out of software they may say, Where’s your prototype? And we say, well, we don’t really need a prototype because here’s the model. And when we talk to the big industrial actors they look at it and they say, yeah, that makes sense. So I think it’s helpful to be working with technologies that people are quite acquainted with.
Dylan: Yeah, I mean ideally you get there without really novel technology problems to solve that we’re trying to make an impact on as quickly as possible.
Luken: Yeah, I mean, of course when we started we thought. To build our kitchen scale model. And we were talking to Veolia and Veolia was like, well, okay, we can send you an electrodialysis machine. Our smallest does 10,000 gallons a day. Where would you like it sent? It’s not going to fit in my garage. So that sort of forced us to think, well, can we go directly to a meaningful commercial scale and how do we do that? That wasn’t a message that necessarily was always well received by venture capital groups that wanted this progression. But then for the big industrial actors, again, they’re kind of used to this type of process and so it’s worked really well with them.
Dyla: That’s cool. So is that what’s happened? Have you built a commercial scale system?
Luke: So the Palmdale Water District will be the first and so the goal there initially is to get to around 1000 tons of removal. So not obviously megaton scale, but also not trivial. We think that model is broadly replicable for all sorts of water stress communities. And of course, if it’s successful, then we can expand it.
Dylan: Where do you see the DAC industry going in the future? Do you think we’re going to be in a place where we have kind of this patchwork of multiple, diverse sets of different solutions? Or do you think there will be a small number of winning approaches like yours that will get funded and scale to where we need them to be?
Luke: I’m sure it will stay patchwork for a while for certain, but then I do think there will probably be a few solutions that will emerge and hopefully there’ll be the kind of sophistication in the market to kind of value these different solutions. I’m not against nature based solutions. If there’s a soil based solution, great. But obviously those credits have to if that stores the CO2 for 10 or 20 years and ours does it for 1000, that has to be kind of recognized in the pricing of that credit. And so I’m hoping that as the markets reflect the underlying distinctions in the technological approaches and the characteristics of those outputs, then that’s going to help kind of codify the sets of approaches that are being used. And then, yeah, I’m sure there’ll be some kind of assimilation as different solutions get put together. And I imagine there’ll be consolidation over time.
Dylan: And what do you think the Capture6 role in that future looks like? What does the future of the company look like?
Luke: I think one of our real innovations is to see that it is possible to do these projects in a way that you don’t just have a kind of CDR tunnel vision, that you’re focused on removing carbon, but you conceive of these projects to achieve multiple goals. One of the things that’s scary about climate change is you have all these feedbacks that are constantly reinforcing one another. And so I think creatively, when we try and propose solutions to the extent that those solutions can be reinforcing one another, that they themselves can be kind of circular feedbacks that can be really powerful. There’s a lot of groups now that are proposing 5 million ton DAC facilities in the middle of the desert. I’m not sure if that’s the ultimate model. It sounds good. It’s very impressive when you look at an artist rendering of what that facility will look like. Sometimes I’m jealous, but I actually think in some ways, maybe the more effective solution is to make every new industrial facility carbon negative, or at the very least, carbon neutral through the integration of DAC. And if you can make every new airport that gets commissioned carbon neutral, if you can make every new water plant carbon neutral or carbon negative, you can build up to that gigaton removal in a way that’s very feasible because we will be building those things. And you’re not depending exclusively on a tax credit that may or may not be reauthorized and may or may not go global.
Dylan: Right. You’re not dependent on something that’s almost this artificial kind of boost. You’re leveraging infrastructure that’s being built already, and you’re supporting the goals of that infrastructure. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me. I have a few questions to close us out, and maybe before I do that, how can people help Capture6? Is there anything or how can people reach out if they want to learn more or anything like that?
Luke: Yeah, I mean, I certainly appreciate people following us on our social media, and if they want to learn more about us through those channels, we’re accessible. So, certainly welcome to interaction.
Dylan: All right. How optimistic or pessimistic are you about the future of our planet and why.
Luke: So, next two weeks, for instance, I am going to some low lying islands in the Pacific that are at maximum height 3 or 4 meters above the sea. I think it would be almost morally irresponsible to be glowingly optimistic when visiting such a place, because for them, I’m going to Kiri Bass in particular. And now all their freshwater sources are contaminated in the island from storm surges. Everyone’s brushing their teeth with brackish water. So I don’t think in that sort of situation where climate change is not a future problem, but it is in the here and now for those people, I can’t be that optimistic. I think the reality is more grim. Personally, although it’s been a big challenge launching this company, it’s certainly helpful for my own mental well being to be working in this space, because, of course, it’s more disempowering if you don’t feel like you’re being part of some solution. And when I go to cleantech events and I meet all of the super creative, smart, passionate people in this space, that is a cause for optimism. When you see that among younger people, climate change is the single most important political issue, that is a cause for optimism. So in our own team, which is exceptional. Some of that is us maybe doing some good job in recruiting, but a lot of that is just there are so many smart, talented people that want to make a difference, do something in the space. So all of that is cause for optimism. But then, of course, I read an article like, there was an article in Cell a month ago that said if we’ve underestimated some of the interactions between these various feedbacks, the carbon budget may be as little six and a half years before we kind of cross 1.5 C. And so that is like a that’s not much time. And a lot of these effects are irreversible. So it obviously can be debilitating to be in a totally pessimistic world and I think that’s not always effective. But I’m certainly not just kind of rosy about everything either.
Dylan: Yeah, that’s a great way of articulating the complex sort of multifaceted feelings I think we all have on this. Who is one other person or company doing something to address climate change today that’s inspiring you?
Luke: So we have an advisor who has been in the climate modeling community for 15 years and I think I am inspired by the scientists that have worked over the last 35 years to make this watertight case that climate change is happening. It’s significant and it’s caused by humans. Right. Because these individuals have faced tremendous political pressure. There’s been so many vested interests that have attempted to discredit this research or to cast doubt on it. And so to get the scientific research to the state. It is where the confidence levels that the IPCC can express the rigorousness of that research that has come through countless scientists efforts and modelers efforts, that is an inspiration to me because every company that’s doing something about this, ours included, like, we simply couldn’t get traction if there wasn’t a broad public perception that this is happening. Humans are causing it, and we need to rapidly decarbonize.
Dylan: Yeah, that’s a great shout out. Actually. Nobody else has said that, but that’s where so much of this is coming from, is a knowledge of what’s actually happening. What advice do you have for someone who isn’t working in the climate today but wants to do something to help?
Luke: In the case of DAC, I think I talk to people both who want internships or jobs. There’s great resources to kind of get abreast of these topics. So in the case of CDR, some of our best applicants have been on the air Miners Flack Channel, have gone through those air minors courses and then show up talking to us and are fully fluent in the distinctions between what Heirloom is doing and carbon engineering and climb works. And it’s obviously great for us when someone is applying that already knows all that stuff. And so I think similar resources exist for probably all of the different climate subdomains and I think it’s possible to really educate yourself and get involved through that kind of socialization process in a way that you can. Then if you want to seek employment in that area, you’re already showing up being pretty sophisticated.
Dylan: Yeah, I like that.
Luke: And of course, obviously, we can all do things to help through our sort of personal choices and whether we jet to Mexico for the weekend, all those sorts of consumer choices, et cetera.
Dylan: Yeah, my wife is in Mexico for a girl’s weekend right now. I’m going to tell her you said that.
Luke: No judgment. No judgment.
Dylan: Great. Luke, that was really informative. I’m a big believer in what you’re doing. I’m really impressed by the solution you put together and your perspective on the space. Thank you for your time. Yeah.
Luke: Thank you, Dylan. It’s been a real pleasure. I appreciate it.
Dylan: Hardware to Save a Planet is brought to you by Synapse. To find out more about us and how we develop hardware solutions for the world’s most ambitious company, head to synapse.com and then make sure to search for Hardware to Save a Planet in Apple podcasts, Spotify and Google podcasts or anywhere you like to listen, make sure to click subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. On behalf of the team here at Synapse, thanks for listening.