Remember the adage, you can’t make money from thin air, well Octavia Carbon would love to differ. The startup, a Global South’s first Direct Air Capture (DAC) company aims to leverage Kenya’s geothermal energy, geology, and talent to radically accelerate DAC down the cost curve with a goal of making Kenya the world’s cost-effective hub to build and deploy DAC machines by 2025.
Direct Air Carbon Capture (DAC)
Direct air capture (DAC) technologies extract CO2 directly from the atmosphere, for CO2 storage or utilization. Direct Air Carbon Capture is a promising carbon sequestration methodology but has yet to scale due to high costs. Kenya-based startup Octavia Carbon is the only company utilizing DAC technology in the Global South and is uniquely positioned to disrupt the cost structure of current DAC projects.
Octavia Carbon has developed a prototype DAC machine, and they are currently working on a separate minimum-viable product with a paying customer which will allow for iteration. This machine design will be replicated, with initial machines capturing 5-10 tonnes of CO2 per year and later machines capturing 100 tonnes of CO2 per annum. By 2024, Octavia Carbon aims to produce at least one of these machines a day, adding some ~40,000 tonnes of CO2 per year in DACC capacity to the global market.
Kenya, where Octavia Carbon is based, is uniquely well-suited for DAC thanks to natural endowments such as excellent geology for CO2 storage, geothermal activity, and unique renewables capacity and potential. The Kenyan Rift Valley is home to high-porosity basaltic rock that readily bonds with CO2-enriched water (carbonic acid – H2CO3), the fastest and safest form of permanent CO2 storage. Geothermal energy is also important for Octavia because ~80-90% of the energy required in DACC is low-grade (~80°C) heat energy. In Kenya, that kind of heat comes readily from the ground and is already a ‘waste’ product of geothermal power production.
For the electrical energy that DACC machines require, it is ideal to have 24/7 green electricity, ideally coming right down the grid, and without too many competing uses for decarbonization (e.g., displacing fossil power plants). Kenya is uniquely well-suited for hydropower and geothermal energy, which today make up >90% of Kenya’s grid, and virtually 100% in Central Kenya. Few places in the world have any significant area covered by a 100% renewable grid. Kenya is also well endowed with solar (great irradiation and no seasonality), which could in the future complement the renewable energy mix even more.
Octavia Carbon removes CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it in rocks. The company plans to then sell carbon credits as its revenue model. Carbon Credits are a type of tradeable instrument that represents one tonne of carbon dioxide removed from the environment, read more about them here.
Octavia Carbon Summary
In conclusion, Octavia Carbon is making money by removing CO2 from the atmosphere, and for every metric ton of carbon dioxide they make one carbon credit, the company can then sell carbon credits in the compliance market to big manufacturers who go beyond the prescribed amount of carbon emissions, the startup is also making strides in reversing climate change by leveraging Kenya’s unique natural resources.
Their innovative approach to Direct Air Capture technology was very interesting to me and it has the potential to disrupt the cost structure of current DAC projects and make a significant impact on reducing carbon emissions. By making money from thin air, Octavia Carbon is leading the way toward a more sustainable future.