Carbominer: Merging the Worlds of Direct Air Capture and Greenhouses
October 25, 2021
2.1 min read; 544 words
Author: Salman Abbas
Technological advances have increased the average human lifespan from a mere 50 years to almost 80 years today; however, not all generations are improving equally rapidly. In 2019, Nick Oseyko noticed the health of Ukrainian children seemed to be getting worse and worse with every generation. When he relayed this observation to a doctor, the doctor confirmed his counterintuitive observation and explained it was most likely due to global warming or rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. From this point forward, Oseyko made it his mission to help power the movement against global warming through Carbominer: a Ukrainian direct air capture (DAC) startup.
Carbominer is focused on “developing novel technologies to help greenhouse growers move to a more efficient and sustainable horticulture.” Greenhouses use liquified CO2 injections to boost plant growth by around 15-20% through carbon enrichment. Carbominer aims to phase out liquified injections, which are “neither cheap nor energy efficient.” Unlike its competitors, who focus on building large CO2 plants, Oseyko explains that Carbominer is concerned with “making transportable units” designed to capture “CO2 locally, near the place of consumption.” These units are designed to capture “150 tons of CO2 per year”, satisfying the “average need of 1 hectare of greenhouse area.” Furthermore, greenhouses are “a fast-growing market with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.3%, which makes them a healthy and growing market to target.”
Carbominer’s focus on greenhouses solves one of the biggest controversies surrounding direct DAC. Although the goal of DAC is to reduce the level of CO2 in the air, the biggest market for CO2 is enhanced oil recovery, a process in which CO2 is pumped into the ground to help pump more oil. In fact, 88% of global CO2 use is to extract even more fossil fuels, which is highly problematic because the captured carbon contributes to a process that ultimately releases even more CO2 into the air. Through its focus on greenhouses, Carbominer provides an alternate, more efficient use case for CO2 captured through DAC.
There are two classic approaches to capturing CO2 from the open air. The wet capture method uses absorbents, solutions that absorb CO2, while the dry capture approach uses sorbents, substances that absorb CO2 through their surface. Unlike its competitors, who either use one or the other, Carbominer has found a unique method that takes advantage of both methods to work the best.
According to Oseyko, Carbominer hopes to grow into a globally recognized provider of sustainable CO2 in the next 5-10 years. As a startup, however, Carbominer still has many hurdles to overcome. For example, the low concentration of carbon dioxide in the open air is still a significant issue across the industry. Additionally, as a relatively new startup, Carbominer still faces challenges from its larger and better-funded competitors. However, Oseyko is optimistic and believes his startup can achieve success through diligence and more innovative practices. He advises students interested in entrepreneurship to “not be a passive watcher, do something, and make mistakes” and that “often, the best solutions are based on many iterations, and you shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes, as they are unavoidable if you want to be an innovator or an entrepreneur. There is always a certain risk of failure – accept it and move forward!”