A new technology start-up that came out of research from the University of California, Berkeley is looking to commercialise a novel, cost-effective process to capture and permanently sequester ambient carbon dioxide while producing sulphuric acid.
The process should, the company says, enable carbon-negative critical element extraction and fertiliser production.
Travertine Technologies, Inc. today announced a $3 million seed financing jointly led by Grantham Environmental Trust and Clean Energy Ventures to enable the company to scale up its team in Colorado, and to accelerate its pathway to pilot-scale technology implementation in 2023.
Carbon dioxide removal has widely been acknowledged as a key piece in the climate change puzzle, with the IPCC believing it must be scaled concurrently with decarbonisation to achieve the goals from the Paris Climate Accord.
Travertine’s electrochemical process mineralises CO2 from the air and co-produces sulphuric acid used for extracting raw materials such as lithium, nickel and cobalt. It accelerates the Earth’s natural carbon cycle to precipitate carbonate minerals from carbon dioxide in the air – producing sulphuric acid, green hydrogen for renewable energy and oxygen as a by-product – and permanently storing carbon in the solid phase, according to Travertine.
Travertine Founder and CEO, a former University of California, Berkeley Professor, Laura Lammers, told IM: “For every tonne of sulphuric acid produced, half a tonne of CO2 is saved and sequestered.”
Some 300 Mt of sulphuric acid is used annually in extractive industries including mining and fertiliser production, with demand set to grow with the surging need for critical elements.
Lammers, one of the leading scientists in carbonate mineralisation, says Travertine is engaging with companies looking to expand or bring online new production of energy minerals such as lithium that would typically go down the normal sulphuric acid plant route, telling them Travertine can provide another option.
“In addition to that, there are many tonnes of sulphate waste out there that come with recycling options using the technology,” she said. If the technology proves successful in these applications, it could prevent the accumulation of millions of tonnes of waste annually that contaminate water and are deemed as liabilities for mining companies.
And there are also options to bolt-on the technology for retrofits/upgrades in existing sulphuric acid processes, she added.
To this point, the company is working with mining companies to trial this technology, with Lammers hoping to say more about these partnerships next year.
She concluded: “There are a number of companies looking at the carbon-to-value landscape, but we are focused on redressing the needs of the industry and the environmental balance.”