Heirloom touts climate fund as ‘among the largest private financings in direct air capture to date’

A San Francisco-based direct air capture (DAC) company founded just 10 months ago has raised $53m from some of the world’s leading climate funds and entrepreneurs, including outfits managed by Mark Benioff, Bill Gates, and Microsoft.

Heirloom Capital, a company which claims to have developed an “ultra low-cost” DAC process that captures and process CO2 ready for storage in rock form, has hailed the fund raise as one of the largest investments in nascent carbon negative technology to date.

The Series A funding round was co-led by Carbon Direct Capital Management and Ahren Innovation Capital, with additional investments from Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, Breyer Capital, the Grantham Environmental Trust, Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital, Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures, Carbon Removal Partners, and Seven Seven Six.

Heirloom, which is aiming to remove one billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2035 through its innovative technology, said the funds would enable it to develop its first deployment project, while also enabling further research and development.

Shashank Samala, CEO at Heirloom, said the costs of Direct Air Capture (DAC) would need to fall rapidly over the coming years to enable the technology to scale and make a meaningful impact on global emissions.

“Utilising low cost, earth abundant minerals as a sponge for CO2 is key to making the economics work,” he said. “In the 10 months since we launched, we’ve made a breakthrough in the rate we take up CO2 from the atmosphere, giving us a clear path to ultra-low cost, highly scalable carbon removal, and achieving our mission to help reverse climate change.”

Carbon negative technologies remain controversial in some quarters, with critics arguing they are likely to prove inherently costly and could distract from the need to cut emissions at source. But many experts have warned they could prove essential for curbing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases, with a number of projects already underway to try and demonstrate that DAC technologies can work at large scale.

Swiss start-up Climeworks launched its first commercial scale plant in Iceland in September, hailing the milestone as a major step forward for the fledgling sector, despite reports costs could reach $600 a tonne and only remove an amount of carbon equivalent to that emitted by 2,000 cars annually.

But Heirloom claims that by using a “simple, modular system” and “mature technology and infrastructure”, it will be able to deliver emissions reductions using DAC far cheaper than many competitors. It said the use of low-cost minerals to produce oxide that naturally binds to CO2 in ambient conditions would remove the need for the energy-intensive and high-cost air contactors used by competitors.

Mark Kroese, general manager of sustainability solutions at Microsoft, said its investment in Heirloom and other DAC solutions would help the nascent industry scale up. “To limit the planet’s warming to 1.5C, we need to combine significant carbon reductions with carbon removal from the atmosphere,” he said. “Our catalytic investments in durable direct air capture technologies like Heirloom aim to drive mainstream adoption by bringing down the green premium through large-scale deployment.”

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