Environmental changes push governments and businesses to seek sustainable ideas for protecting the planet. The topic of global climate change has been actively discussed in recent years. Ukrainian startup Carbominer developed a unique technology that extracts carbon dioxide directly from the air and uses it in various technological processes. Recently, the startup found a niche in the greenhouse industry, but Carbominer’s technology can also be used for making fuel for cars and space rockets. More about Carbominer and their technology — in this material.
Founder: Nick Oseyko
Location: Kyiv, Ukraine
Preventing climate change, making the planet a much better place – these were the goals set by the founder of Carbominer Nick Oseyko several years ago.
«It all started when I realized the extent of climate challenges facing the current generation. When my child caught a cold, I asked the attending pediatrician if she too thought that our children had a weaker immune system. Surprisingly, she agreed with me and gave me several explanations. One of them was the level of CO2 in the air. When I was eighteen, this level was 375-380 ppm, and when my youngest child comes of age, this level will reach 445-450 ppm. And then I thought: why not create a device that would capture CO2 directly from the air?» said Oseyko.
A colleague from the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute helped develop the prototype for carbon capture for the startup.
«We made a desktop device from improvised materials. It was just a concept. I realized that if we were able to make a prototype, we could make the final product too. But the question remained – how could we make this technology cost-effective? After all, creating a CO2 capturing device from the air is not that difficult and the chemical process is well-known. The challenge is to create a technology that captures CO2 cheaply and allows it to be sold at below-average prices» shares Nick Oseyko.
Making life easier for greenhouse owners
Initially, Carbominer wanted to use their technology in open-space offices to save on heating in the cold months and purify the air.
However, another application of their technology became much more promising. «When we analyzed the CO2 extraction market, we found that many people saw carbon dioxide as a harmful pollutant. At the same time, some people perceive CO2 as a nutrient, a valuable commodity, for example, farmers with greenhouses. Plants need a lot of carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis, and we can extract this carbon dioxide from the air around the greenhouses,» says the startup founder.
«Our modules are transportable and located near greenhouses. We connect them to the electrical grid, and they start capturing CO2 and pump it to the greenhouses: this way CO2 does not need to be stored, purified, compressed and transported. A greenhouse with a 1-hectare area consumes on average 100-150 tons of CO2 per year, captured by Carbominer,» says Oseyko.
On the roadmap – expansion to Europe
Today, Carbominer’s focus is on the European commercial greenhouse market.
«Ukraine has a few industrial greenhouses – about 350-400 hectares in total. The big players can be counted on one hand. That’s why we want to enter the European market. After we figure out the production details, we plan to establish the production of devices in eastern Poland to avoid various customs and tax complications,» said Nick Oseyko.
Not just greenhouses: beverages, eatables, fire extinguishers and even rocket fuel
The obtained CO2 can be used in various industries, not only in horticulture.
«There is a market for CO2 for beverages, CO2 for food processing and packaging, CO2 for firefighting and welding. There are also use cases that we don’t want to go into; for example, the shale oil and gas industry needs CO2 to pump it underground and extract fossil fuels. This application of CO2 is controversial; we want to improve the environment, not create more emissions. There is a promising market for synthetic fuels, which is not yet fully developed. When one has hydrogen, a fairly simple reaction of CO2 with hydrogen produces methane – fuel for both cars and rockets. Elon Mask’s rockets fly on methane, by the way,» says Oseyko.
Tips for other startup founders: Don’t listen to the naysayers
Startup founders often complain about the negativity they have to endure and lack of support among their professional circle. «Founders should not be afraid to continue building their startups. Few will support innovators who create something new from scratch. Acquaintances might say that others would have done it already if it were possible. Still, you need to stay positive and appreciate both successes and failures. For example, we tried and rejected a working but unprofitable technology. It was hard to admit that we made a mistake, but they are what moves us forward, so don’t be afraid of failures,» says the Carbominer founder.
Economy and environment: how carbon taxes will change the market
Ukrainian startup Carbominer is about two things in one: generating savings for greenhouse operators while at the same time improving the environment.
The EU will soon introduce a new carbon tax, part of the new European Green Deal. All products imported into the EU will be taxed according to how much CO2 was produced during its creation. Since Carbominer does not create new carbon dioxide emissions and uses the CO2 already in the atmosphere, farmers don’t have to burn natural gas or firewood to produce CO2 in greenhouses, which is great for the environment. The CO2 tax on products grown in such greenhouses should be minimal.The world’s leading countries already understand the urgency of climate change, and startups like Carbominer clearly prove that Ukraine is now on the path to decarbonization.