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Bio-oil, an unconventional solution to combat Climate change, has caught the attention of major tech players like Alphabet, Meta, Stripe, Shopify, and McKinsey Sustainability. These companies, as part of the Frontier climate initiative, have joined forces with San Francisco-based startup Charm Industrial in a groundbreaking effort to convert agricultural and forestry waste into bio-oil, an ingredient with potential applications ranging from barbecue sauce to carbon storage.

Source: Stripe/Youtube

Charm Industrial’s process begins by collecting discarded corn stalks and branches from logging operations. The collected waste is then subjected to a unique treatment—reactors heat it up to 500 degrees Celsius without burning, resulting in a tarry-looking carbon-rich liquid known as bio-oil. Remarkably, the watery portion of this substance shares similarities with liquid smoke, commonly used to impart a smoky flavor to food products like barbecue sauce.

Beyond its culinary uses, bio-oil plays a crucial role in carbon storage. The plants and trees from which it is derived absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. If left to burn or decompose naturally, this carbon dioxide would be released back into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change. However, Charm Industrial aims to trap and store this carbon dioxide underground within the bio-oil for extended periods—ranging from thousands to millions of years—preventing its reentry into the atmosphere. In this way, Charm Industrial can offer carbon removal credits, representing captured CO2, to companies seeking to offset their own carbon dioxide emissions.

The recent agreement between Charm Industrial and Frontier’s founding members, along with other companies, involves a payment of $53 million to capture and store 112,000 tons of carbon dioxide from 2024 to 2030. While Charm has already successfully stored over 6,100 metric tons of CO2 in the form of bio-oil, this new deal marks a significant escalation and demonstrates the confidence of influential tech companies in the emerging carbon removal industry.

Charm Industrial’s decentralized approach sets it apart from other carbon removal methods. Instead of constructing large facilities, the company relies on its fleet of vehicles and equipment to transport and inject the bio-oil into existing wells used for industrial waste or repurposed salt caverns from oil and gas exploration. However, scaling up this process presents its own challenges, including the production of specialized reactors called pyrolyzers and ensuring that the wells do not leak bio-oil.

While Charm Industrial’s efforts are commendable, it is crucial to remember that carbon removal alone cannot replace the urgent need for emissions reduction. Environmental advocates emphasize the importance of prioritizing clean energy solutions and minimizing Pollution from burning fossil fuels. Charm’s CEO, Peter Reinhardt, agrees, asserting that reduction efforts should take precedence over carbon removal.

As individuals, we can Support the development and implementation of clean energy technologies and advocate for sustainable practices in our daily lives. By reducing our carbon footprint and demanding action from policymakers and businesses alike, we contribute to the collective fight against Climate change. Let us embrace renewable energy, Conservation, and carbon reduction strategies to build a greener and more sustainable future for generations to come.

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