Q&A

Why this UK carbon capture co. expanded to Houston, IRA's impact, and more

Aniruddha Sharma of Carbon Clean weighs in on his North American expansion, the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act, and more. Photo via carbonclean.com

Earlier this year, a growing carbon capture company announced its new North American headquarters in Houston. Now, the company is focused on doubling it's headcount before the end of 2023 to meet demand.

Carbon Clean, which has a technology that has captured nearly two million tons of carbon dioxide at almost 50 sites around the world, opened its new office in the Ion earlier this year. The company is now building out its local supply chain with plans to rapidly expand.

In an interview with EnergyCapital, Co-Founder, Chair, and CEO Aniruddha Sharma weighs in on the new office, how pivotal the Inflation Reduction Act has been for his company's growth, and the future of Carbon Clean.

EnergyCapital: Looking back on the past year since the Inflation Reduction Act was enacted, what has the impact been on Carbon Clean?

AniruddhaSharma: The IRA did much to jolt industry, incentivizing investment in carbon capture, while also telegraphing that the US government is getting serious about bringing emissions down. Overnight, the US became Carbon Clean's biggest growth opportunity: inquiries from industrial emitters leapt a staggering 64 percent.

The impact of the IRA cannot be overstated for our industry, especially for point source carbon capture technology companies like Carbon Clean. The momentum created by the law's passage, along with our existing activity in North America, led to the opening of our US headquarters in Houston in March this year. We will double our US headcount to meet demand for CycloneCC, our breakthrough, fully modular carbon capture technology.

EC: What does the sector still need to see — in terms of support from the government — to continue to move the needle on the energy transition?

AS: There's much to admire in the way that the IRA incentivizes business. While it involves billions of dollars of public investment, it is set up in such a way that companies must make substantial investments first. IRA funding doesn't arrive on day one — it comes over several years and to get to the first dollar of funding, a company must secure considerable private investment first. In other words, every single dollar of the IRA funding is unlocking additional private investment, creating high-paying jobs, and bringing manufacturing back home.

Of course, a lot of additional investment still needs to happen, and for some harder-to-abate sectors additional policy measures may be required to enable deployment at scale. The IRA is just a first step, but what a giant step it promises to be.

EC: You recently opened Carbon Clean's HQ in Houston. What's next for your company in terms of growth — especially here in Houston?

AS: We're experiencing phenomenal growth globally, but we expect our expansion in North America to outpace all other regions. In line with this, we've seen a surge in interest from industrials across the US and our newly-opened Houston office will help us to meet this demand.

We are establishing a very significant base in the US — doubling our headcount this year — and we are developing a local supply chain to support the commercialization of our breakthrough modular technology, CycloneCC.

The potential for CycloneCC in the US and Houston area is huge. It is optimised for low to medium scale industrial emitters and recent Rice University research on the US Gulf Coast, for example, found that it is well suited to 73% of Gulf Coast emitters.

We're currently working with Chevron on a carbon capture pilot for our CycloneCC technology on a gas turbine in San Joaquin Valley, California. We expect to be announcing additional carbon capture projects in the US in the coming months.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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A View From HETI

The combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology. Photo via Getty Images

SLB announced its plans to combine its carbon capture business with Norway company, Aker Carbon Capture.

Upon completion of the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of this year, SLB will own 80 percent of the combined business and ACC will own 20 percent.

According to a SLB news release, the combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology.

“For CCUS to have the expected impact on supporting global net-zero ambitions, it will need to scale up 100-200 times in less than three decades,” Olivier Le Peuch, CEO of SLB, says in the release. “Crucial to this scale-up is the ability to lower capture costs, which often represent as much as 50-70% of the total spend of a CCUS project.

The International Energy Agency estimates that over one gigaton of CO2 every year year will need to be captured by 2030 — a figure that scales up to over six gigatons by 2050.

"We are excited to create this business with ACC to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technologies that will shift the economics of carbon capture across high-emitting industrial sectors,” Le Peuch continues.

SLB is slated to pay NOK 4.12 billion — around $379.4 million — to own 80 percent of Aker Carbon Capture Holding AS, which owns ACC, per the news release, and SLB may also pay up to NOK 1.36 billion over the next three years, depending on business performance.

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