Ethan Cohen-Colen recognises that no silver bullet will solve the climate crisis. It was this mentality that spurred him to co-found Capture6 in 2021. Now as CEO of the direct air capture company, Ethan draws on 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur, academic and economist to deliver scalable climate mitigation solutions.
Can you introduce yourself and explain why you founded Capture6?
I am Ethan Cohen-Cole and in 2021 I co-founded Capture6 with our President, Luke Shors. We understand that a radical reduction of carbon dioxide emissions was essential if humanity was to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
However, we also recognise that every carbon-emitting activity cannot be easily – or possibly – stopped straightaway. To reach net zero, we need to complement reduction efforts with technologies that remove residual and historical emissions from the atmosphere. And this is why Luke and I started Capture6.
We see three significant gaps in the carbon removal market that need to be addressed if we are to make a meaningful impact on the climate crisis:
- A relatively immature voluntary market poses a challenge to the immediate growth of the tech-based removals industry;
- There is little evidence of sufficient voluntary demand for >$500 per tonne of CO2 at the scale required to address the climate crisis; and
- An insufficient focus awareness around the tools of carbon removal to drive decarbonisation.
In recognition of these gaps, Capture6 is developing projects that are commercially viable today, at affordable price points. By ensuring our project economics make sense in the current market conditions, Capture6 can drive decarbonisation now, and until the global commitment to carbon reduction intensifies and a more robust carbon market for tech-based removal credits potentially emerges.
Could you explain the problem Capture6 seeks to solve?
To avoid the worst global climate change scenarios, it is vital to reduce humanity’s emission of greenhouse gases. Still, as underscored by the UN’s IPCC lead author, Heleen De Coninck, we will also have to do negative emissions or carbon dioxide removal in the second half of this century to ensure a safe and stable climate.
Through its direct air capture technology, Capture6 offers permanent, irreversible carbon removal that complements a rapid curtailment of new, anthropogenic emissions. At the same time, we also address the growing global demand for water and increasing drive for industrial decarbonisation.
But our technology does more than remove carbon from the air. Our facilities help industries decarbonise by capturing point-source CO2 emissions; they produce fresh water and create green hydrogen, lithium, and other industrial inputs. Because of these potential integrations with other industrial processes, Capture6’s technology turns carbon removal from a costly stand-alone proposition into a viable solution that enables widespread decarbonisation. We are focused on a socially just, environmental transition.
Let’s get technical: How does your product work?
Capture6 has developed a proprietary Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology that uses a liquid sorbent to capture carbon dioxide from ambient air (AKA atmospheric air in its natural state).
This technique involves splitting salt through electrochemical processes which produces a base and an acid. The base absorbs CO2 from the air, forming carbonates that are stored long-term.
As I mentioned before, our technology also boasts additional features, including the production of fresh water, the ability to operate at ambient temperatures for renewable energy compatibility, and a once-through process for continuous solvent creation and carbon dioxide sequestration.
The technology is versatile, allowing various input and output configurations, and it integrates with multiple industries. Capture6 generates several revenue streams, including freshwater, green chemicals and carbon dioxide capture-related revenues.
Could you share a story of Capture6’s success?
We are proud to have announced three, different decarbonisation projects on three continents. Our plan is to grow to a gigaton scale as we expand our global project pipeline.
Our first project – Project Monarch – is based in Southern California. It is part of Palmdale Water District’s Pure Water Antelope Valley Demonstration Facility (PWD), which will be the first fully integrated water management and CO2 removal facility of this nature. We are proud to be able to estimate that the full-scale project will save the PWD between 20 and 40 percent on the lifetime costs of their new water management facility.
Next, we have Project Wallaby which is the product of our partnership with Pilot Energy Limited. This partnership will assess the integration of Capture6’s direct air capture and water recovery technology into the Mid West Clean Energy Project – a model decarbonisation initiative for Australia.
Project Octopus will be a first-of-its-kind facility for water recovery and carbon removal using a seawater desalination plant. In addition to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, Project Octopus will generate green chemicals, including domestically produced, low-carbon alternatives for heavy industries in Korea that currently depend on imported products.
And finally, what’s next for Capture6?
Project Monarch is the first step in our ambition to get direct air capture to a gigaton scale and we plan to break ground on this project in the second quarter of 2024. For Project Octopus and Project Wallaby, we expect this to occur between late 2024 and early 2025.
From a technological standpoint, we recently received an award from the U.S. Department of Energy to finetune our cooling tower design, a key element of our technical process. This enhanced tower design – Absorption Unit Reactor for Ambient Air (AURA) – will make our direct air capture process more efficient and less energy-intensive per tonne of carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere. We look forward to further optimising our technology through research collaborations.
Be it with companies addressing their net zero and water positivity goals, or with municipalities recovering more freshwater for their constituents, we look forward to developing even more partnerships around the globe.
Disclaimer: Respira International has announced its intention to purchase direct air capture credits from Capture6. Read more here.