SF-based company opens 1st commercial facility to remove carbon dioxide from air

Dustin Dorsey Image
Friday, November 10, 2023
SF company opens 1st commercial facility to remove CO2 from air
San Francisco-based Heirloom opens its first commercial facility in Tracy to remove carbon dioxide from air.

TRACY, Calif. (KGO) -- By using the slightest of breeze in the Central Valley, a San Francisco-based company can remove harmful CO2 from the air.

We visited the country's first commercial direct air capture carbon dioxide removal facility in Tracy.

In an area with some of the worst air pollution in the state, this technology is pushing California towards net-zero.

"This facility is the closest thing to a time machine because it can turn back the clock on climate change," Heirloom CEO and co-founder Shashank Samala said.

"We've been polluting, with carbon, our atmosphere, since the industrial revolution and you cannot unpollute - except, except with this," U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said.

MORE: CA attorney general sues 5 major oil companies for contributing to climate change

We were on hand for a tour of the San Francisco-based company's facility.

Heirloom's direct air capture tech uses chemical reactions from limestone known as calcium hydroxide to remove one thousand tons of harmful CO2 per year to provide cleaner breathing.

"We've identified a few different ways, non-toxic, very low cost, very low energy-use ways to substantially accelerate the rate that calcium hydroxide naturally takes up CO2," Heirloom head of commercialization Max Scholten said.

Here's how it works: as the wind blows through, CO2 binds to limestone in stacked sheets.

Once robots have determined enough CO2 has been collected, they're brought to an all-electric kiln where the carbon dioxide is burnt off. It's eventually stored in concrete by CarbonCure Technologies to be used in Bay Area construction projects.

MORE: More than one-third of Americans live in places with unhealthy levels of air pollution: Report

The tons of CO2 can now no longer harm the atmosphere.

"We are aiming for many, many millions of tons this decade, hundreds of millions and then billions to the next decade as well," Scholten said.

It's a start, but in order to reach President Joe Biden's and Governor Gavin Newsom's goals of net-zero, billions of tons of CO2 needs to be removed from the air annually.

The goal is to scale the technology to $100 spent per one ton of removed carbon dioxide in the hopes of a cleaner world for tomorrow.

"This may be the first DAC facility in America, but it cannot be the last and it won't be the last," Samala said. We'll build many more like it, across America, across the planet to remove millions to billions of tons of CO2 to meet our generational duty to slow, stop and eventually reverse climate change."

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