May 1, 2024 - Energy & Environment

Carbon removal tech gets an up-vote

Illustration of a man with a briefcase standing on a carbon dioxide molecule.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Vaulted Deep, a startup that injects carbon-rich organic wastes deep underground, just landed a major deal with corporate giants looking to jumpstart CO2 removal markets.

Why it matters: The agreement with Frontier, whose members include Meta and Alphabet, signals confidence in the scalability of Vaulted's tech.

  • And it's a shot in the arm for emerging, biomass-based removal methods more broadly.

State of play: Under the $58 million deal, Vaulted will remove 152,480 tons of CO2 between 2024 and 2027, with an option for subsequent buys.

  • It's Frontier's second commercial deal in the biomass removal and storage space, following last year's contract with Charm Industrial.

How it works: Vaulted uses organic materials — farm wastes, sewage sludge, food wastes and more — that would otherwise release CO2 and methane when burned, landfilled or spread on land.

  • They convert this into a slurry that's injected deep and permanently underground.
  • Vaulted claims cost advantages, because CO2 uptake in organic materials is natural. Meanwhile, transformation to slurry requires relatively little processing and energy inputs, among other reasons.

Catch up quick: Today's deal follows a small-scale 2023 agreement with Frontier that Vaulted delivered.

  • The company spun out of Advantek Waste Management last year, with plans to harness the older company's tech for carbon removal, and raised an $8 million seed round.
  • Today's deal is exponentially larger than prior agreements with Frontier and other customers. It's 91 times the size of last year's pilot-scale Frontier deal.

What they're saying: "We're super excited about Vaulted's speed to execution, their enormous scale and capacity potential, and the fact that they can get to sub-$100 a ton [in removal cost] in this decade," Hannah Bebbington, Frontier's strategy lead, tells Axios.

The big picture: Frontier vets removal tech for viability and integrity, advises companies, and brokers deals.

  • They're working with an array of startups and methods, including direct air capture (DAC), enhanced weathering, and ocean-based systems.

Reality check: Today's removal volumes are tiny compared with the gigaton scale needed to become a real weapon against global warming in decades ahead.

  • But these are crucial years for steering markets toward needle-moving deployment levels.

What's next: Most injections for Frontier buyers will occur at Vaulted's Great Plains site in Kansas, but the startup also plans to bring three new facilities online by the end of 2027, CEO Julia Reichelstein said.

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