Sedimentary rock formations are by far the largest store of carbon on earth - over 1,000 times larger than any other carbon sink. On geological timescales, carbon slowly makes its way from the atmosphere into rocks, eventually forming carbonate minerals which sit, stable and safe, deep in earth’s crust. But we don’t have millions of years to slow climate change, we only have a few. Heirloom was founded to harness and accelerate the power of this natural process to help restore balance to the atmosphere.
Heirloom’s process starts by spreading thin layers of reactive oxides on trays and stacking them on top of each other, maximizing the mineral surface area exposed to the ambient air. They’ve accelerated the rate that these minerals take up CO₂ - from years in nature - to just two weeks. After absorbing CO₂ like a sponge, the minerals are heated in an electric kiln, releasing the CO₂ molecule from the mineral so it can be captured and stored underground permanently. The leftover minerals from the kiln can then be recycled and spread in thin layers and the cycle continues.
At scale, the process could cost less than traditional direct air capture and use less energy overall. The minerals Heirloom uses are highly abundant, and the process relies on these minerals passively contacting air rather than using energy-intensive fans to draw air in.
Since we launched our fund, we have been searching for a high potential mineralization solution to include in our portfolio. In mid 2020, Heirloom emerged from Carbon180’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence fellowship ready to pursue commercialization, and the rest is history.
Shopify has agreed to purchase 400 tons of carbon removal from Heirloom. This is important revenue that helps fund their initial deployment on their journey to remove 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2035.
“A few decades from now, carbon removal will need to be 2-3 times the scale of the oil industry,” said Heirloom’s CEO, Shashank Samala. “We can't repeat the mistakes of the past, and we need approaches that don’t make compromises. It's possible to achieve permanent, compact, environmentally-just, and low-cost carbon removal at scale and that's exactly what we are going to do."
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