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☁️ Carbon Transformation

My Climate Journey

Photo by Possessed Photography / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Jason Jacobs
Guests: Dr. Etosha Cave | Co-Founder & Chief Science Officer | Twelve &
Dr. Kendra Kuhl | Co-Founder & CTO | Twelve &
Nicholas Flanders | Co-Founder & CEO | Twelve
Category: ☁️ Carbon Reduction

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[8:13] EC: “The three of us formed the founding team of Twelve with a mission to transform CO2. Right now, if you're emitting CO2, you're throwing it into the atmosphere. And we're saying what if we could take that CO2 and actually make some of the products that we use and love today, such as jet fuel and clothing and lenses and sunglasses and […] make those components. And so […] the whole mission of the company is to build these reactors that use electricity and metal catalysts to take CO2 in and as well as water and break down those molecules into smaller atomic bits, and then reformed those atomic bits into new molecules.”

[10:33] NF: “I'd been an author on a report on carbon capture and storage. Because at the time, that was kind of the main thing that people have come up with to do with captured CO2 emissions is injecting it and storing it underground. And the thing that didn't add up for me is, what is the market driving force behind that? Who's gonna pay for it? It really relied on policy. And so the idea that you could take captured CO2 and turn it into something of value, that made a lot of sense. Because then you have a pathway to scale through market forces. And I think the three of us all have that thesis that that's the fastest way to scale impact as if you have people demanding the product and service.”

[11:27] NF: “It was not a crowded field. There were a couple of small projects making things like baking soda that were out there. But the hurdle had really been the cost of doing this, both on an operating side the amount of energy that you would need, and on the capital side, so the investment needed in the type of equipment to do this transformation. And so what's different about what we're doing is that these catalysts are really efficient, our system itself can turn on and off really quickly. So you can integrate directly with renewable electricity, which has been falling in cost. And the systems themselves are modular, kind of like a solar farm, so that addresses the capital constraint. You don't need to build a giant plant to get started. And then over time, through mass manufacturing, the cost really comes down. So you can actually have a CO2 based product that can go toe to toe with a fossil fuel based product. And that's the big difference.”

[19:14] NF: “Ultimately, this all bubbles up from consumer demand. And the closer you are to the customer, the more relevant sustainability as a differentiation is. […] Last year we introduced the world's first car parts made from CO2, and it was for the Mercedes A class. […] Our technology itself actually gets integrated at their supplier, who's a bit further from the customer, but their customers at Mercedes are hearing about the impact. So I think it's a change in consumer preference, ultimately, that's driving the push towards sustainability within the supply chains. They want to serve customers, they want to grow. And so having a differentiation that is economically efficient, is ultimately the driver of this. And that wouldn't have been […] maybe a decade ago. […] There's been an evolution in consumer awareness around sustainability […] especially the last five years.”

[21:49] KK: “Our technology at its core has a lot of analogies with photosynthesis. So plants use the energy and sunlight to turn carbon dioxide into sugar, which is their food. Our technology uses energy from electricity and carbon dioxide to turn that carbon dioxide into something humans can use, materials that we care about.

[23:49] EC: “Our core competency is the transformation. So ultimately, we're pretty agnostic, where we can get the CO2 from. We can take different sources of CO2. […] Oftentimes with economics, it makes sense to concentrate that stream of CO2 into something that's 99% or close to 100% of CO2. So right now we look at partnering with other companies that have developed the CO2 concentrations and capture systems. We also […] can […] take the CO2 directly into our system and so even […] skipping that capture step and just going straight to transformation.”

[26:05] NF: “So many things in your daily life are made from carbon. And today that carbon comes from fossil fuels. So whether it's the insulation in your wall, or the parts on your car. And so our process just replaces that […] ancient carbon from the ground in the form of fossil fuel, it's coming from CO2 from the air. But the material itself will be the same, even though it's coming from a new place. And that's the whole idea is that you can kind of switch the source of carbon without changing anything about the end product.”

[36:50] NF: “If you look at the potential CO2 impact, just the first couple products that we're focused on, it would be about three gigatons per year, which is almost 10% of global emissions. And so our vision is to capture a big chunk of that. So we want to get to at least half a giga ton converted per year within the next decade. […] We started this company was to put a dent in climate change by turning CO2 into a valuable product. So success for us, the revenue model of our company is directly linked to the impact.”

[41:12] NF: “[Our business model is] CO2 conversion as a service. So we've tried to make it as easy as possible for customers. They just can continue buying the ingredients that they do today. But they'll be made from CO2.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify (Original Title: "Startup Series: Twelve")
🕰️ 51 min | 🗓️ 10/28/2021
✅ Time saved: 49 min

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