A DiCaprio-backed fund has invested in carbon capture startup CleanO2

July 12, 2022

CleanO2—a Calgary, Albert, Canada-based carbon capture startup—just raised $2.1 million from Leonardo DiCaprio-backed Regeneration.VC, based in Los Angeles, reports Business Insider.

Incorporated in 2017, Clean02 captures carbon from heating appliances, such as boilers and water tanks, in commercial and residential buildings.

The company has developed small-scale carbon capture systems, which are the size of refrigerators, that can be retrofitted onto existing heating appliances. The system converts CO2 into a compound which is used to make soap and is sold to consumers.

CleanO2 captures emissions direct from the source, reflecting a maturing carbon capture market previously dominated by the likes of Climeworks, another well-known carbon capture company, which operates a large industrial site and pumps captured carbon deep below ground.

The global carbon capture and storage industry attracted $2.3 billion from investors in 2021, according to BloombergNEF.

CleanO2 cofounder and CEO Jaeson Cardiff had the idea while he was working as a plumber, fixing blocked pipes and heating systems like boilers.

“In 2005 I recognized that the industry was moving towards decarbonizing,” he told Insider. Wondering what that meant for his future and the sector, he asked around and no one seemed to have a clear answer. “The more questions I asked, the more I realized that there may be an opportunity to create a solution.”

Cardiff played with ideas in his spare time, networking with experts who helped iterate the technology on a pro-bono basis. For years, Cardiff said, he spent half of his day wearing coveralls, fixing boilers and faucets. He would then put on a suit and head to a conference or investor meeting.

When natural gas is used to power an appliance like a boiler or water tank, it produces greenhouse gas emissions. The startup diverts these emissions into its system where the carbon dioxide is absorbed by a chemical, converting into a carbonate which sequesters it in a form of mineralized CO2, known as pearl ash, Cardiff said. 

This process naturally releases energy, he said. This energy—as well as any waste heat from the connected boiler or water tank—is used to offset the energy needs of the building it serves. The best use case for this is heating water, Cardiff said, so boilers don’t have to work as hard to heat up cold water every time a tap or shower is turned on. “We get roughly 75% of our greenhouse gas reduction through heat recovery,” he added.

The pearl ash from the direct air capture is then collected from each site and turned into consumer goods such as soap, shampoos, cleaning products, and fertilizers. 

One system captures six to eight tons of CO2 emissions annually, which is roughly the equivalent of 300 trees, the company said. An updated model, to launch next year, will double its current capacity.

CleanO2’s current customer roster and commercial partners include Lush Cosmetics, Volkswagen, Daimler, and Radisson Blu among others. It counts Centerpoint Energy, FortisBC, ATCO, Northwest Natural, and Tokyo Gas as utility partners. The firm has 22 employees.

The fresh funds will be used to scale up and further develop the technology and increase sales and marketing efforts.

The round was led by Regeneration.VC, a fund backed and advised by actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Dan Fishman, general partner at the firm, said there is strong investment appetite for carbon capture and sequestration strategies that deal with “fugitive carbon.”

The round brings the startup’s total raised to $3.4 million.

Research contact: @BusinessInsider