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Exclusive: Google X carbon removal startup to launch with ex-Facebook CFO backing

Illustration of the words CO2 behind cut out of a sky by a pair of scissors

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Carbon removal startup 280 Earth, a spin-out of Google's Moonshot Factory X, is set to officially launch, with backing led by former Facebook CFO Gideon Yu, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The company is among those developing so-called direct air capture, a technology that has attracted a wave of investment and government support for pulling carbon dioxide directly from the air.

Details: Palo Alto-based 280 Earth spun out of Google's Moonshot Factory X in 2022. Scientists there had quietly been working on the tech for several years prior.

  • The company's carbon-sucking process, which uses a dry sorbent invented at Google X, is said to operate at a lower temperature than competitors and can tap into waste heat, like the kind emitted at factories in cooling towers.
  • Yu, who left Facebook in 2009 and started an investment firm, Yu Capital, led 280 Earth's latest funding and is expected to serve as the company's executive chairman, Axios has learned. Yu is also a co-owner of the San Francisco 49ers NFL franchise.
  • San Francisco-based firm Builders VC also backed the startup, according to a source.
  • 280 Earth and Builders VC declined to comment. Yu was not immediately available for comment.

Zoom in: The company broke ground for its first facility in The Dalles, Oregon, according to a community news outlet in the area that visited the building site. Columbia Community said in an article last month that 280 Earth purchased just under 3 acres near Taylor Lake.

Big picture: The market for direct air capture has been heating up over the past year thanks to growing interest from oil and gas companies, increased U.S. government support, and burgeoning investor support.

  • Last August oil company Occidental agreed to acquire direct air capture startup Carbon Engineering for $1.1 billion.
  • Other oil giants like Shell and Chevron have become DAC-curious, despite the emerging nature of direct air capture tech.

What's next: 280 Earth is expected to build bigger versions of its modules that can remove more tons of carbon dioxide from the air.

Editor's note: This story was updated to add in Builders VC role in the company, and to add that the firm and 280 Earth declined to comment.

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