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DCS #05 Gaël Gobaille-Shaw of Mission Zero

Published: 14 Dec 2022

Last Updated: 19 May 2024

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In this episode of Developing Carbon Stories, we are speaking with Gaël Gobaille-Shaw, Chief Technology Officer at Mission Zero, a company developing direct air capture solutions that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and either store it permanently or isolate it for use by other industries.

More about Gaël.

Read more about Mission Zero.


David Reside: Hi there, my name is David Reside, and this is Developing Carbon Stories, a podcast about the project developers creating the most innovative and impactful carbon projects in the world. Developing Carbon Stories is a project by Abatable, a carbon intelligence and procurement platform that helps companies purchase high-quality carbon offsets. Each episode, I speak with an entrepreneur from a different part of the carbon ecosystem and talk about their journey so far and how they are acting on climate change.

On today’s episode of Developing Carbon Stories, I’m speaking with Gaël Gobaille-Shaw, the chief technology officer at Mission Zero Technologies. Mission Zero is developing direct air capture solutions that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and either store it permanently or isolate it for use by other industries.

Hi Gaël, thanks so much for joining us on today’s episode of Developing Carbon Stories.

Gaël Gobaille-Shaw: Thanks very much, I’m very, very grateful to be here.

DR: I’d like to start by talking about your pretty impressive academic backgrounds. Had a bit of a Snoop on LinkedIn. I saw you have two master’s degrees and a PhD in chemistry and electrochemistry. I’d love to hear about how you first got interested in that space.

GGS: Well, it depends on how far you go back. But yeah, I was really interested in it like fireworks and explosives when I was a kid.

So, I always kind of had a passion for home chemistry, but so inevitably I ended up doing chemistry at university and it was in my master’s project that I first came across the subject of CO2 utilisation. I remember being in the kind of the hall of all the different poster projects that were going on feeling relatively, you know, uninterested in a lot of them and then coming across a poster, which talked about artificial photosynthesis turning carbon dioxide into different types of chemicals. And I thought, wow, I even forgot, you know, like in in I forgot how the CO2 is actually a useful molecule in chemistry. You’re actually taught that it’s inert, and it’s not very useful.

Sitting in your undergraduate, but then if you’re a biologist, you know that CO2 is the building block of all life, and you know plants breathe in every day to make sugars in cell walls. And you know everything that they construct themselves out of. So, it was a kind of cognitive dissonance that suddenly dissolved at that moment.

And then I did a year of a project in electrochemistry exploring how some catalysts could turn CO2 into formic acid. It’s this acid, which, it’s actually made by stinging ants, and it’s used in using lots of chemical processes, so that was my first taste of CO2 utilisation back in 29.

No, 2012 sorry. Spent a couple of years out trying to, you know figure out what to do next and I kind of realised that there was nothing more that I wanted to do than go back into research. So, then I joined a combined master’s PhD programme with the perspective of broadening my horizons, maybe trying other things, but inevitably I actually went back to CO2 electric chemistry again, in a slightly different way, looking at Catalyst to make methanol and acetic acid and building electrolysers off the type that a company called Twelve is now commercialising.

So, it was kind of a very applied type of PhD where I was very interested in how the catalyst will actually be used in commercially relevant devices. And what sort of devices would, would that have been a part of like?

Yeah, so they’re, they’re kind of, if, if you see, one of these electrolysers, they look like two big metal plates with tubes going in either side and some electric, you know some wires attached to each plate and then inside that there’s these like these catalyst layers separated by membrane. On one side the CO2 comes in, it reacts with protons and electrons and then you can form many different types of molecules from carbon monoxide, different types of alcohols, precursors to polymers, all kinds of things actually.

Generally, relatively small chain molecules. The aim of the game in that field is really to try and make longer chain carbon molecules, carbon-based molecules.

And then on the other side, you’re actually generating oxygen from the oxidation of water.

DR: Right, and these electrolysers are fundamentally, are they sort of at the centre of direct air capture technology? Like are they throughout all DAC solutions?

GGS: No, no, typically not. That’s this is more on what you do with CO2 once you have it, rather specifically capturing suites from the app, although it isn’t it, is a sort of more research interest to have an electrolyser that can actually capture CO2 from the air and then convert it in a single step rather than having you know a very multi-step process. So, it is key research. It is a very key research area as well, to kind of integrate that and transfer this into one. So maybe yeah, maybe one day.

DR: Well, I guess that I mean that sort of feeds pretty neatly into me asking you if you could, you know, help explain the technology behind DAC. I mean I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that you know in the industry we often see all these images of you know, arrays of these things that look like air conditioning units or like festival speakers. And these big lines, what do we actually look at there?

GGS: Yeah, well you can, it might be first helpful to strip back direct air capture to the two key processes that can be, you know, implemented in slightly different ways. So, the first step is always CO2 from the air being moved by a fan.

Well, not always by a fan, actually, but you know taking a flowing stream of air, let’s say and the CO2 gets absorbed by a liquid, or another term, adsorbed by a solid and pretty much all that technology starts with either CO2 you know absorbing onto a liquid or adsorbing onto some sort of solid filter material.

And then the second question or the second part of the process is how do you get the CO2 back? You know how do you then encourage the CO2 to leave the thing that it’s just been bound to and so the first wave of direct air capture technologies characterised by companies like Carbon Engineering, Climeworks, Global Thermostat. They all use thermal regeneration processes where you heat that sorbent material to a certain temperature where the CO2 will come out again and it can be done in such a way that you get a pure stream of CO2 after that regeneration process.

That was the first wave, and in the last, you know, four years, I suppose. We’ve been seeing other ways of getting the CO2 back out from things such as changing the humidity can actually liberate the CO2 from your sorbents. That’s called moisture swing back.

Electrochemical methods which can well which have their own subcategories but might be by creating differences in acidity and alkalinity, to regenerate pursuing from sorbent and regenerate the sorbent itself.

You might hear of companies like Verdox that actually act a bit more like a capacitor and can charge and discharge a material using a voltage, and it’s actually a very energy efficient way of doing it, but it’s actually probably the most fiddly and complicated to build because it’s.

DR: Is that an industry term?

GGS: Fiddly and complicated, yeah. Well, it’s just it’s very early. It’s a new technology and so it’s going to have its manufacturing production challenges.

I’m sure, but it’s very, very interesting and well, so we and you know there are other approaches like using photothermal means and, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten some as well, but that’s a that’s probably a very general overview.

Maybe I’ll talk specifically about, you know about what.

DR: Yeah, about Mission Zero, yeah, I mean you’ve given a lot. Of possibilities of how this can work? How does Mission Zero tackle the approach?

GGS: Yeah, we thought it would be really important to have a process that operates just at ambient temperature, you know you can just you know you can install your plant wherever you are in the world, and it will work without having to integrate into some kind of heat source. And so, we’ve developed a technology where CO2 is scrubbed by a liquid, and so that is the combination of fans and what we call packing materials, which create a falling film of liquid and then the air flows in between the films.

And then the CO2 is rapidly absorbed by that liquid, and when that liquid has a certain amount of CO2 dissolved into it, we then pass that through what is actually a traditional water purification technology, and that water purification technology has the ability to create acid and alkaline gradients between two different liquid streams, and so the capture solution flows into the stack. It’s a bit like an electric electrolysis stack, but it’s sort of modified to allow this type of process. The bicarbonate ions that are formed when CO2 dissolves in water are moved selectively across the membranes and transferred into a solution that is actually acidic, and bicarbonate ions are unstable in acidic solutions and simply form carbon dioxide again, so this can be done in a very continuous way.

And it can also be done in sort of batch way. And so, our process really relies on the coupling of two already existing technologies, but with innovations in the particular types of solution chemistries that we use, we feel that by using off-the-shelf technologies we can get to scale faster. We can leverage the availability of existing supply chains and you know, in the pursuit of getting to megatons and above this should you know, really accelerate us towards that direction, but inevitably there’s plenty of areas for innovation as well, because of course these technologies were never designed with direct air capture in mind. They had other applications in mind, so there’s a lot more optimization still to be done.

DR: Yeah, and so what are the benefits of taking that approach? I mean, other than scalability, more on a, you know solution basis what are the benefits of that approach as opposed to the other ones you described earlier?

GGS: So, as I mentioned, we don’t need any temperature, so fundamentally anywhere with an electricity supply we can operate. So, we have very limited, no, very few deployment constraints. You know we wanted, we felt that one of the best technologies would be the one which can operate in the greatest number of geographic locations.

Umm, it’s a very compact approach. You can get a lot of CO2 captured from the air in a very small, much more compact form factor in regard to the contacting and the release step obviously uses off-the-shelf technology. And it has the potential to be quite energy efficient as well. Much more energy efficient than thermal regeneration technologies, which means when you’re you know, connected to a grid and you want to be a fully electrified system, your impact, your carbon intensity of your electricity use will be lower.

And perhaps the final thing, at least on the top of my mind is that we can operate at smaller scales viably than the thermal regeneration technologies such as carbon engineering, for example, if you have this in carbon engineering, you have a calciner that calcines the calcium carbonate at 9 degrees Celsius to regenerate your CO2 from the calcium carbonate. And so, the efficiency of these kind of basically furnaces is very dependent on the scale. So, you want to have a very large furnace, so you minimise your heat losses.

If you operate without temperature, you can actually have a much smaller plant which has advantages if you’re wanting to sell CO2 to a smaller CO2 user of the scale, you know thousands of tonnes per year rather than megatons because there are really good and important market opportunities across scale lengths from small industrial processes all way to you know megaton second station.

DR: Yeah, right, and I mean would those benefits, would they also translate into a lower cost of production as well?

GGS: Yeah, we’re looking at the techno-economics for our first-of-a-kind plants and they look, you know, we’re quite comfortable now because we’ve had a lot of supply quotes, a lot of vendor quotes, and all of our experimental data. looks like we will far surpass the first-of-the-kind plants in terms of levelized cost of capture compared to the first-generation DAC technologies that we’re talking about. You know £10 per tonne. Plus, we think we’re going to be at least half that in our first pilots, so that’s about 5 tonnes per year with our pilot in Norfolk in England.

DR: Yeah, OK, so how, many is it just the one pilot that you have in the works at the moment? Could you talk a bit about the projects that Mission Zero is working on at the moment?

GGS: Yeah, absolutely we have two live projects in Norfolk. We’re building a 5-tonne-per-year plant funded by the British government to the tune of £3 million as part of a greenhouse gas removal competition that is a key part of the government’s net-zero strategy.

And we’re working with a company called Oseo Technology that will be taking our CO2 and performing carbon-negative building aggregates. So, we’ll be supplying CO2 directly into their process, making up part of their existing CO2 supply. They are really excited to be working with us, particularly in the context of this CO2 supply crises that have struck the UK in the last couple of years.

45% of our CO2 actually comes from a single plant in the UK, which is ended operations due to the rise in natural gas prices and also quite low fertiliser prices. So, there are lots of interesting supply-demand issues with CO2, which our process solves. We can beat the prices that are currently experienced in this crisis with our DAC technology and offer a sort of an uninterrupted on-demand, and you know stream of CO2. They’ve literally had CO2 supply disrupted from them multiple times, force majeure placed upon them, and now they’re now paying prices well above £6 per tonne, and smaller uses such as pubs, for example, have had their prices increase from 10 pounds.

Tonne up to £40 per tonne now, so the CO2 supply market’s a mess, frankly, and that’s actually how we got first very interested in DAC, you know. If you know, is it possible to create a DAC technology which when placed at the customer site so you exclude transportation costs, you can deliver at least a package, which is you know a package. So, your CO2 supplying your CO2 cost that is attractive to a customer, and so they’re very excited to be working with us on that front.

DR: Yeah, and do you see one of the biggest opportunities being this sort of small-scale on-site operation? Being able to feed into that CO2 market? Or is that just sort of one of the angles you’re pursuing?

GGS: It’s one angle, it’s you know, it’s the kind of first-to-market kind of angle for us and it’s great that it means that there are potentially many more places we can deploy in with every deployment you learn, you get opportunities to lower your costs rather than have to, you know, risk all your money on very large plants. That gives us kind of a nicer learning curve in some ways.

But of course, some you know that there are really big impacts to be had in sequestration and, and that’s where our second project comes in. That project is called Project Hajar. It’s going to be based in Oman. Hajar is the Arabic word for stone, and there are also the mountains of the Hajar Mountains as well nearby.

We’re working with a company called 4401 and their specialism is injection of basically fizzy water underneath the desert into mineral reserves, which react with CO2 to form carbonates. So, it’s a very, very permanent, and safe way to store C02. And we’re working with them in basically the running for the X prize. Together we were one of the top 15 winners of that X prize competition, and now we’re in the game for the second phase, which will be, you know, the top prize, $50 million. And so, we’re in it to win it.

And yeah, they’re a great company. We really enjoy working with them, and that plant will be at least 10 tonnes per year net negative, but with some improvements that we’ve been seeing in the lab, we might actually think about oversizing that plant as long you know, to the extent that 4401 can cope with that so, yeah, we’re very excited about that plant and that’s going to come online in 2024.

DR: 2024 and that’ll be… fingers crossed.

GGS: With all things going to plan.

DR: So, what’s the I guess that’s the next step in in the development, but I mean, what’s the vision for the scale you know for Mission Zero, you know, do you have a 20-30 sort of you know, plan on in terms of how many tonnes you want to be sequestering per year or anything like that?

GGS: Yeah, I’m you know less on the less on the frontier of this within Mission Zero, but I know we do. Have we been doing modelling on what would it take to get to 1 megaton by 2030, and you know it basically kind of looks like you know lots of you know small pilots up until 2027, and then a huge kind of deployment of our plants across the next three years. We need hundreds of plants. Seven, you know, depending on the scales, but we’re looking at a kind of portfolio of you know plants that are in the, you know 10,0-tonne region and then a few plants much larger.

And yeah, there is a pathway to that. It’s radically optimistic, radically ambitious, for sure, but we’ll go as fast as we can go. But we’re doing this for the first time, so you know who knows.

Yeah, you know we can only be as ambitious as that, but it may take us longer, frankly, you know it’s hard, it’s hard to tell.

DR: Yeah, absolutely, and I guess it’s we compare ourselves to companies like I’ve forgotten the name now.

GGS: Companies like… and other carbon sort of negative building companies. They’ve actually in their 15 years of being around, gave you know, deployed hundreds of their processes in, you know, sort of set cement production. So, there are there are you know benchmarks that do seem like it’s actually not totally crazy.

DR: It’s always a nice reminder that you’re not totally crazy. That’s good. And of course, it’s I mean the scalability is also going to be modulated by policy environments where you’re working. What’s the state of policy you know relating to DAC technologies in the UK at the moment?

GGS: It’s evolving, it’s more immature than the United States. It’s essentially at still at the can we get DAC to TRL 7, and so you know support research programmes that help get DAC to its pilot.

There’s no nothing yet formalised in anything like oh, if you have a process that creates a carbon negative material, or you have a process that sequesters you. They’re not offering any kind of payment for that. Unlike the Inflation Reduction Act in the US, where they’re talking about things. I think on this, around $180 per tonne for sequestration, $120 per tonne for sort of permanent building. Well, you know building materials you know sort of value-added products which sequester the suits you for a long time.

Although I think it’s unclear whether we have to be, have to have a United States entity in order to access that type of funding, I think details will emerge over six months. So, in the UK it’s not where it needs to be, that’s for sure. Thankfully, there’s the voluntary carbon dioxide removal market that really, you know.

DR: That’s right, it took. Took the words out of my mouth. I was about to ask; you know you have subsidies from governments like in the US for DAC. But you know obviously, where there’s a dearth of that you can substitute other markets like the voluntary carbon market you know which are trading. There are credits you know in, in the neighbourhood of 185 bucks a tonne, which is obviously not competitive compared to you know other credit types that are in the market. What’s the pathway in terms of getting DAC to a more cost-competitive place in the voluntary carbon market like what are, what are the pieces that need to fall into place for that to happen?

GGS: Yeah, two pieces really, cause in this case we’re really talking about sequestration, we’re not really talking about utilisation. And when you’re talking about sequestration, you basically have to get to very large plants. You have to get to megaton plants, and to the kind of plants where you’ve optimised your process and you have productionized the most expensive, most more, more manually produced aspects of your process so that’s where your CapEx reductions come from. And then you need to secure low-cost electricity to supply those plants.

So, when you’re talking about planning that scale, you’re probably not going to be connecting to the grid and you probably need to sort out some utility solar renewables and some kind of storage option. You know battery storage or something else, and there we’re going to rely on the sort of the continual price reduction of renewables that we’ve been seeing over the last decade.

You know they’re already the cheapest form of electricity, but they’re going to have to keep on keep on reducing, you know past 2030 to hit the kind of 1 to $2 per tonne and alongside that you know in terms of carbon dioxide removal markets, that supply has to continue they have we’ll have to look at different types of financing options, pre-purchase agreements but also debt financing. And so, there’s a lot to still be formalised about how a DAC plant is debt-financed. What are the requirements in order to make those projects happen. It’s not really an area of my expertise, but you know, it’s definitely a combination of technology plus, you know market forces allowing these plants to come to light.

DR: Yeah and does that mean that the market forces that are pushing the direction, particularly in the voluntary carbon market, this is more towards the style of… blanking on the name of that big plant or the orca plants potentially you know where they have this massive scale, I think it’s, you know, relies on geothermal energy as well. Yeah, is that something that we’ll be seeing more of in the future?

GGS: Yeah, so that’s a 40,0 tonne per year project. I think carbon engineering has something like, I’m not going to get the number right, but it’s 10s of megatons of projects in a pipeline over the decade with their first megaton project coming on in a couple of years’ time.

Something around that and so yeah, I think a question that I don’t know the answer to maybe some people do but when a million tonnes of carbon removal lands on the market, what happens? I don’t know what the demand is at the moment, and there probably are people that do, but I’ll be amazed if demand keeps driving, you know, as the megatons start to come online. Because in principle it’s a very large market, you know, in principle if we want to global warming, there’s billions and billions of tonnes that need to be removed. And so, if you just, you know, target some arbitrary number on that, $10 a tonne or 1 or whatever. It’s a very It’s a kind of unfathomably large market and so will the interest and the kind of like frenzy that we kind of almost see in the investment areas and removal purchases continue.

Big known for me.

DR: I mean, I think it. It would almost seem as if it would, you know that people that are working on answering this question. Of course, people know a lot more about it than both of us. But you know, I mean, I’ve heard predictions of the voluntary carbon market tripling in size by 2030. Perhaps it was 2035. But the scaling increase seems to be a trajectory that we’re going to continue to see.

And I guess you know for removal technologies, in particular, you know. This reminds me of the frontier initiative that, yeah, the initiative, I think it was led by Stripe. You’ve got some other big names like Meta, Shopify, and a few others, a lot of others and they’ve got this I think it’s a market commitment, just shy of a billion dollars for removal technologies which don’t exist yet, or haven’t scaled yet, just precisely to give certainty to I, I guess to people like you to say, hey look, we’ve got money to spend, we’re keen to buy credits of this type, you know we just, we just need you guys to scale it, deliver it and you know. And we’ve got the money to buy it.

I mean, I guess that is all the reassurance you need to sort of keep pushing on.

GGS: So much reassurance. When we started, we had no idea that anything like that would manifest. You know, like, when we started, there was the stripe, you know, sort of pre-purchases rounds that were going on. I think we were the second if I remember rightly pre purchased or portfolio that Stripe did. But even though even at that time it just seemed like a kind of a weird glitch in the matrix.

You know, because it’s not something that you normally see you know it’s normally like a profiteering industry to kind of willingly expense, you know, for things that they don’t actually have to, by any sort of legal means. So, it did seem a bit like a glitch, but so the fact that it’s growing year after year now up to a billion is kind of quite marvelous, and Stripe pre-purchased to us was massively catalytic in our investment round and also just providing us more confidence to scale faster to grow the company, you know in a bit of a bolder way.

And so, we may not really be talking about these, you know Project Hajar, and if Stripe hadn’t come in at such an early stage where we were still very proof of concept. Kind of, you know, rugged tech demos and our lab wielded just by me while trying to build a company.

You know it’s kind of crazy. So yeah, very, very grateful to them.

DR: Yeah, it’s interesting that you know tech removal companies are getting so much interest in this space you know, particularly from Silicon Valley ventures and stuff like that, I mean.

I guess DAC, technology itself just seems like it almost feels like a really convenient option. I mean, obviously it’s not convenient for you to work on it and understand all the challenges around it, but–what do you think is so attractive about these sorts of credits? For companies that want to put up so much money and say, hey, we’re ready to buy these credits, you know, rather than going for the existing options in the voluntary carbon market?

GGS: Yeah, the existing options. Well, the existing options are kind of hard to quantify. They have less certainty associated with them, less permanence, less you know, room to grow as well, actually, you know, planting trees is great, but you know they’re you know the capture rate per year is quite low. It’s harder to account for what the true quantity captured is each year, and so on.

DAC is the, you know, at the moment the premium way that you can account for the CO2 that’s removed so from, that’s you know that raises the value of that credit versus any other, and then you have you actually have a route to getting to gigatons, whereas other technologies don’t seem to have the ability to scale to the to play such a role.

All the other solutions are obviously going to play a big role, but I think that will have the greatest potential in that respect. So, you kind of have to pay the premium to get the technology up and running and not want to wait, you know half a century for it to actually be cost-effective. You know when, how long have we known about solar panels, probably, you know well over half a century, but you know it’s taking that time to actually reach some cost. You know some very attractive prices and so we don’t want to, we don’t want to wait quite as long as we did for other renewable technology.

DR: Hmm, and I guess you know the other really attractive element is the permanence you know, I mean.

GGS: Oh yeah.

DR: A big part of what we do at Abatable is we’ll assess projects and, you know, we look at it from a few different angles and you know from additionality, permanence, measurability, and all that kind of thing, and particularly with nature-based solutions, looking at the permanence is always it’s so complex, it’s complicated you know looking at the risks involved you’re looking at, you know the longevity of the solution you’re looking at. You know the longevity of the companies behind the solution as well.

You know what, I guess, one of the things that seems really attractive to me about DAC is with storage solutions, at least, rather than utilisation you’re literally just getting this carbon and like I don’t know you’re putting it into a, you know, a block or a reservoir of some kinds and you’re guaranteeing you know thousands of years whereas you know planting trees there could be a fire, you know the trees could die whereas.

GGS: There was a horror story about that almost a couple of months ago, I believe there was a company that was a reforestation company.

They would do some activity which created a forest fire, and you know had basically erased that you know the hard work the efforts of cap you know, growing so many trees and it was just this a sad tale of the fragility of a reforestation solution in you know in drought.

DR: Yeah, yeah, I think it was in Spain and you know, they’re pretty prone to wildfires. And, you know, I come from Australia and we have bushfires every season and so yeah, I used to work in the revegetation organisation and you know the reality was, you know, while we were lucky enough while I was working there, at least never to be affected by bushfires, we knew that there was always that risk, you know, just by nature of what you were doing there was. You could never really entirely mitigate the risk. You know you can take steps, fire brakes, and all that kind of thing, but yeah, it’s something that DAC really seems to stand out in that way. You know and I suppose the same in terms of how measurable it is. You know how verifiable it is you can. You can point to the CO2, and so now I’ve waited here, here, or here. It all is rather than sort of guessing how many trees you’ve got. But I guess I wanted to touch on additionality, because we have different types of carbon.

We’ve got storage and utilisation, obviously there’s you know there’s an argument to be made for additionality on storage, but for utilisation solutions do they generate credits as well as the additional business proposition that they deliver for the people you’re working with, like in the Norfolk solution?

GGS: Yes, yes, they do actually. Oseo technology, I think has been, you know, working with you know. It’s true they’ve been working with certain tech companies, I’m not sure, if they can be disclosed, but to purchase the effective credits that their products create.

Both from a bit and both. Well mainly from a DAC perspective. so previously they had used, you know CO2 from normal industrial sources that have a fossil component, and they were struggling to get to value, you know, get any value leverage from that.

And so, as they start working with us, they learn about the kind of the DAC area and we’re then able to start leveraging credit from their process, which actually helps close the kind of the price gap. So, it means that they can use a premium form of CO2.

DR: Yeah, yeah.

GGS: Because they’re now getting a reimbursement essentially for doing so, and so it makes the combined business proposition for us and for them much more favourable.

DR: Umm yeah, I guess it. It brings a new avenue of finance to those businesses. Which is, you know again, another innovation in the technology which is really exciting.

GGS: Yeah, generally though I don’t have a lot of experience where when we’re talking about things like CO2 to fuels, which is you know, a more nuanced argument and has more complicated life cycle implications, whether you make a synthetic fuel from a point source CO2 or you use DAC or CO2. I hear a lot of debates on this and perhaps I feel not in a position of expertise to side at the moment. But yeah, I, but in a sense, I do believe though on a kind of a broader scope.

Things like synthetic fuels are important and sort of synthetic materials that we normally get from fossil fuels. There is no other carbon source and CO2 that is abundant enough to replace the products that we make from Petrochemicals. And so, it’s something that people don’t really talk about that much. Like where are we going to get all of our carbon from when we stop extracting fossil fuels? And really, there is only one answer in my opinion. There’s biomass probably to some extent, but it’s not going to again, not going to be the full solution.

DR: I’d like to wrap up with a question on where you see the biggest opportunities in direct air capture technology in the next two to five years. I won’t do the five to 10 because I feel like it’s such an evolving space that would be too difficult, but in the next two to five years, where do you see the, you know, the biggest growth opportunities for DAC?

GGS: Yeah, I believe that it is for companies like ours because I imagine we’re not the only one. It is actually in the carbon-negative aggregates building material space, because I’ve spoken to many people from the…type companies, Carbon Cure, and so on and they are dying for a DAC solution.

You know the problems I talked about with this supply market affect them greatly and so they want an independent, you know, supply for themselves and so that’s an I think that’s just a beautiful like product-market fit that just needs people to hit price points that make sense to them.

So, I’m sure there’ll be a lot of early trials in that in that type of market. Otherwise, you know, there’s you know there’s going to be sort of a scramble for geologic options for sequestration. You know, I’m sure 4401 will probably try and work with others. There’s expect you know. In Iceland, they may. You know other companies may start working with CARB Fix, the company that essentially has the process of reacting security with their volcanic minerals.

Those are the big opportunities. And then there’s carbon engineering doing, you know, doing their own thing and the Permian Basin and so on, but it may be more enhanced oil recovery in that, and you know that’s a more controversial and you know definitely less cool, impactful kind of way of employing DAC.

Yeah, it’ll be really, but it will be really exciting nonetheless to see a plant operating at the megaton scale, you know? Whether or not it’s the application that we think is the best.

DR: Well, I guess this.

GGS: And that will be.

DR: Well, there are so many options. I mean, there’s I guess one thing I you know. I’ve sort of learned from this discussion how diverse the space is. You know, coming into it, you sort of equate. You know, DAC with DAC. You think it’s you know one and the same. It’s one technology, but yeah, you you’ve really painted a picture of how different the players are within the space.

GGS: Yeah, and actually maybe just to finish off with one last one. The last one is the, it’s kind of, I don’t know if it’s crazy or not. It’s the ocean alkalinity kind of back, so you can consider the ocean to be a giant sink of CO2 if you just add more alkalinity to it. So effectively, it means putting sodium hydroxide in the ocean, and the sodium hydroxide, you know, reacts with carbonates and creates a driving force to capture more C02 from the air.

I don’t know what the implications of that are from an, from an aquatic, you know biosphere. I don’t know what term is, but from a you know environmental perspective. Is that OK? I don’t know, but it’s obviously one of the largest sinks that we know of, and it’s on the shores of every country that has a shoreline.

DR: We’ll have to ask.

GGS: So that there’s an interesting, you know aspect to that vision, right? It’s whether we can be confident of it being sort of compatible with our other aims of living in a world which is sort of in harmony with nature rather than causing you know more problems when we try and fix a particular thing.

DR: Yeah, whether living in harmony with nature is, you know whether that entails pouring sodium hydroxide into the ocean. Yeah, on mass is an interesting one, but yeah, I mean that it’s a really thought-provoking notion to think of. Yeah, the ocean is potentially one of the biggest sinks that we could be harnessing. It’s not the least interesting thing you’ve said throughout this, and it’s been really fascinating talking to you about it.

We could probably go on for a bit longer, but thanks so much for joining and talking about Mission Zero the cool work you’re doing, and the stuff you’ve been working on for the future.

GGS: Well, thank you yeah, very welcome to be here for me to have for you to have me. Thanks very much.

DR: Thanks, Gaël.

GGS: Thanks, David.


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