- Octavia Carbon, a Kenyan startup, is building Africa’s first direct air capture (DAC) plant to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
- The startup has constructed 5 DAC prototype machines and is now building a pilot plant called Project Hummingbird to capture 1000 tonnes of CO2 annually.
- Octavia Carbon uses Kenya’s renewable energy, geology, and talent to develop low-cost DAC optimized for African conditions, making scaling easier.
Octavia Carbon, a Kenyan climate tech startup, is pioneering direct air capture (DAC) in Africa to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. DAC involves using chemical solutions and fans to extract CO2 directly from ambient air. The gas can then be stored underground or repurposed.
Founded in 2022 and based in Naivasha, Octavia Carbon aims to leverage Kenya’s renewable energy, geology and talent to deploy low-cost DAC at scale. This emerging technology promises a new weapon in the battle against climate change.
Octavia Carbon Building the First DAC Machines in Africa
So far, Octavia Carbon has built 5 full-scale DAC prototypes. Through ongoing design iterations, the company has standardized production for mass manufacturing.
It is now constructing its pilot plant called Project Hummingbird. With capacity to capture 1000 tonnes of CO2 annually, this project will generate verifiable carbon credits using DAC.
To work around DAC’s high energy demands, Octavia Carbon has tailored its process to reuse waste heat from geothermal plants. Abundant in the Rift Valley, these facilities provide an ideal source of power and heat.
Captured carbon will be injected underground into basalt rock formations. Here, it mineralizes into stable carbonate compounds through natural chemical reactions. This eliminates the need for expensive CO2 transportation infrastructure.
Founder Martin Freimüller explains the opportunities DAC presents in Kenya
“We recognized the potential to deploy low-cost DAC by leveraging Kenya’s renewable energy, geology and talent. Our pilot plant will generate durable carbon credits while creating jobs for local communities.”
An Innovative Approach to Reversing Climate Change
Traditionally, DAC has remained prohibitively expensive at scale. Octavia Carbon’s innovative approach tackles these challenges by using locally available resources.
The renewable energy and ideal geology reduce operating costs. The design explicitly avoids expensive components that drive up capital expenses. Localized production and operation also minimize transport emissions.
By optimizing DAC for African conditions, Octavia Carbon can scale up faster and cheaper. This unlocks new potential for permanent carbon removal in the Global South.
The company has already attracted US$540,000 in early investment. Its seed funding round aims to raise US$6 million for growth and plant construction.
How Direct Air Capture (DAC) Works
Direct air capture involves using chemical solutions to capture carbon dioxide directly from ambient air. There are two main steps:
- Contacting – Large fans draw ambient air into an air contactor unit which contains chemical solutions or solids that can selectively bind and absorb CO2 molecules. These materials have a higher affinity for CO2 compared to other gases in air.
- Separation – Once the contactor material is saturated with CO2, the collected gas needs to be separated out. This is done by applying heat, vacuum, steam or other methods which cause the CO2 to detach from the contactor so it can be collected in concentrated form.
The captured CO2 gas is then compressed and piped for permanent sequestration or reuse. Geologic storage involves injecting it into underground reservoirs. The CO2 can also potentially be recycled into fuels, building materials and other products.
DAC differs from standard carbon capture as it removes CO2 directly from the open air rather than from concentrated point sources like power plant flue gas. This allows it to counteract emissions from dispersed sources like transportation that are harder to capture at origin.
DAC Offers Climate Action with Co-Benefits
Octavia Carbon positions its DAC work as “reversing climate change”. Permanent carbon removal creates local jobs while generating carbon credits. A portion of revenue will finance community education programs centered on climate innovation. This unique social impact approach has drawn increased buyer interest.
As climate urgency grows globally, DAC offers hope for active decarbonization. Octavia Carbon proves Africa can pioneer solutions while empowering communities. Its work marries climate action with ethical development for a just transition.
With its pilot plant in Naivasha, this startup leads the charge on direct air capture south of the Sahara. Octavia Carbon is leveraging African resources to chart a groundbreaking path in the climate tech space.