This Is CDR is an ongoing series of online events to explore the range of carbon dioxide removal solutions that are currently in development. This week, we’re back on dry land with a great presentation from Peter Reinhardt of Charm Industrial, a company that’s sequestered more carbon dioxide to date than any other.
Peter started Charm after researching existing carbon removal offerings and finding them disturbingly shabby. Many “carbon offsets” are badly verified and can’t prove that their removals are additive (wouldn’t have happened without intervention) or permanent (planting trees, for example, can see the sequestered carbon literally go up in smoke in the event of a fire).
Charm checks both of those boxes and several others, through an innovative process of converting waste biomass into a unique bio-oil and sequestering it in depleted oil wells. Plants absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide as they grow; waste biomass (corn stover and other agricultural byproducts) from those plants still contains that carbon dioxide after the salable parts of the plant have been removed. Some of it needs to be left in fields to sustain local ecosystems, but a lot of it just rots and releases CO2 back into the atmosphere.
But sequestering it in its raw form is untenable – transporting tons and tons of plant matter into storage would release more CO2 than you could ever remove by storing it. That’s where Charm’s process comes in. Using custom mobile pyrolysis machines, Charm can convert waste biomass, right on site, into a dense, transportable liquid (bio-oil). Its machines can run on the biomass itself, meaning they don’t use any energy off the grid; they can be fully powered by plant matter that would otherwise rot. And the resulting bio-oil can be reinjected into depleted oil wells, where it solidifies within 24 to 48 hours.
That last point checks another box, because other CDR solutions capture CO2 as a gas, which has to be handled much more carefully. Gaseous CO2 creates a lot of problems with potential leaks, both in transport and in sequestration. It limits the siting options for storage and requires long-term monitoring to make sure it stays where we put it. A self-solidifying liquid solves those problems neatly; we can inject it deep underground and be sure it will stay there.
Charm has seen a lot of success so far, and with huge global supplies of waste biomass, it has enormous potential for growth. This is a really exciting presentation; we encourage you to watch. And please come back next week for a very special episode of This Is CDR featuring a legislative proposal direct from OpenAir itself. You can find the whole series on our resources page.