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Hans de Neve is the founder of Carbyon. The company captures CO₂ from the air so that it can be stored underground. This carbon dioxide can also be used as a raw material for the production of renewable aviation fuel. “By doing this, we hope to be able to contribute to curbing climate change.”

What is your vision for the (sustainable) future?

“The future is, obviously, a carbon-neutral future. I think we are all convinced of that. We may even have to move to a CO2-negative future, because to meet the Paris climate targets, we will also need to remove CO2 from the air. This can be done with our technology. So, this is how we want to contribute to curbing climate change.”

“This type of technology is already under development, but it is still expensive. And as long as it is expensive, it will not be used. Take renewable energy technology, for instance. These days, now that solar panels are cheaper, they are being used en masse. If we want to become CO2-negative, we also need to make this technology more cost-effective. We are doing this by making a smaller system that doesn’t need as much material. We have also developed a new membrane that enables us to extract CO2 from the air using less energy.”

Where are you at now and when do you expect to start making a real impact?

“We hope to have our first unit finished by the end of next year. We expect to be able to remove 50 million tonnes of CO2 from the air by 2030. To give you an idea: The Netherlands emits 150 million tonnes every year. Therefore, 50 million is a decent portion of those emissions, but globally it doesn’t count for that much yet. Estimates are that we will be able to achieve 5 billion tonnes by 2050.”

“There are a number of potential clients for our technology. The first are companies that make renewable fuels and renewable chemicals. For example, there are plenty of discussions on the subject of aviation, which is highly polluting because of the fossil fuels theatre used. The route people are now taking is to use renewable energy from wind farms and solar farms as the basis for producing renewable fuel. You need two things for that: Green hydrogen and green carbon that you get out of the air. That’s how you can make a circular fuel. Other potential customers are greenhouse horticulturists. They use CO2 to grow plants and are looking for a renewable source of CO2. A third group are governments or companies that really want to shift towards negative emissions by storing CO2underground.”

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“Empty natural gas fields have already proven that they can trap gas for millions of years. If we hadn’t drilled into those fields, it would have just sat there. Which is why I think they are ideal natural locations for storing CO2 gas. In a sense, you could say that you are sending CO2 back to where it came from. It is now also seen as a safe way of doing that. What we are objecting to is the continued use of fossil fuels. I understand these objections, because then you get a kind of vendor lock-in situation. That is why we as a company say that the industry should not use our technology as an excuse to keep on using fossil fuels. They should divest themselves of fossil fuels as quickly as possible by, for example, focusing on the production of renewable kerosene at the same time.”

To what extent does these times call for a different type of leadership and how do you put that into practice yourself?

“We need to shift as quickly as possible towards providing leadership that is committed to the future of humanity on this planet. At the expense of short-term profits, if need be. A leader must be able to convince shareholders or prospective investors with a compelling story that they should not go for maximizing profits at this point in time, but that a sustainable production process should be given priority. We sorely lack that leadership, otherwise we would have been a lot further along by now.”

“I try to adopt this type of leadership myself by telling prospective investors that we will always go for planet before profit. So if they invest in Carbyon, they should be well aware that we always choose what is best for the planet. Even if that choice comes at the expense of short-term profits. Investors who engage with us sign an ethics charter to state that they agree with that.”

This article is courtesy of ChangeInc, whom Innovation Origins has an editorial partnership with.