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‘My competition is climate change’: Carbon Clean raises $150M led by Chevron

Carbon Clean, a startup focused on capturing harmful factory emissions before they enter the atmosphere, has secured a hefty $150 million series C round led by oil company Chevron.

Aiming to carry out “industrial decarbonization on a gigatonne scale by the mid-2030s,” Carbon Clean is chasing a sector that is responsible for around one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions — though the statistic depends on how you define "heavy industry," which includes cement, steel, energy from waste and oil refineries.

Carbon Clean claims its latest tech — dubbed the CycloneCC — is “10 times smaller” than conventional point-of-source carbon capture equipment and “has the potential” to cut average costs roughly in half, to around $30 per tonne. Small enough to fit inside a shipping container, the CycloneCC takes in flue gases, absorbs the CO2 via liquid chemicals known as amine scrubbers, and then boils off the CO2 for storage, say, underground.

Asked about Chevron’s reputation on climate, Carbon Clean co-founder and CEO Aniruddha Sharma employed a firefighting analogy and added that fossil fuel firms have more in-house expertise on emissions than your typical steel or cement plant.

“I say: Look, I'm a fireman and there is a fire. And if I have to start thinking about decarbonization as trying to douse the fire, I'll go to the biggest fire first, because that needs to be controlled first," he said. "These companies have such a big emissions footprint today already that, you know, once you start working there it can already make a big impact.”

In addition to Chevron, investors including cement producer CEMEX, oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco and Samsung Ventures also chipped in on the deal.

“The table is huge and there are just not enough companies out there doing this kind of thing,” Sharma said in a call with TechCrunch, arguing that point-of-source carbon capture capacity needs to expand by as much as 40 times in the next few years. “Really, when I think about competition, my competition is climate change. The clock is ticking,” he said.