Charm Industrial

Charm Industrial transforms waste biomass into bio-oil and injects it underground for permanent storage.

Pathway
Biomass carbon removal and storage
Tons
112,003
Track
Offtake - 2023
Total contract value
$53M
Location
San Francisco, CA, US
Delivery timeline
2024 – 2030

The approach

Charm collects biomass wastes and residues, such as leftover corn stalks, and heats them to high temperatures in a low-oxygen environment. The process, called pyrolysis, breaks down the biomass into three products: syngas, biochar, and carbon-rich bio-oil. The resulting syngas is used to power the pyrolyzers.

The biochar can be returned to fields to replace nutrients and improve soil health. The bio-oil, which retains much of the carbon present in the original biomass, is injected into EPA-regulated wells, where it sinks and solidifies in place, becoming permanent carbon removal.

The case for Charm

  • Biomass carbon removal and storage (BiCRs) offers a promising path to low-cost removal at scale. The core insight underlying BiCRs is to use waste biomass—leveraging billions of tons of CO₂ already being captured via photosynthesis—and then do something with that biomass to ensure that the captured CO₂ is stored permanently. Companies are exploring a wide range of strategies to do this, from bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), to burying the waste biomass in sealed vaults, to (in Charm’s case) converting the waste biomass into bio-oil and then injecting that underground. Experts estimate¹ that there will likely be enough waste and residue biomass globally by 2050 to support gigatons of carbon removal annually.

  • Charm’s modular approach utilizes small, mobile pyrolyzers to convert waste biomass into bio-oil anywhere waste biomass can be found. Charm’s pyrolyzers can be moved from farm to farm on the back of a truck bed, similar to other farm equipment. On-site pyrolysis minimizes the need to transport raw biomass, and instead allows Charm to transport 5-7x denser bio-oil. Importantly, Charm takes advantage of biomass feedstocks that are high volume and easily characterized as waste (corn stover and forest fire management waste).

  • Charm has a challenging but feasible path to low-cost, high-volume removal. By producing many smaller pyrolyzers rather than a few very large facilities, Charm may benefit from higher learning rates as it scales to tens of thousands of pyrolyzers. By operating pyrolyzers directly on-premise, Charm can both be flexible in where it sources its biomass and reduce the cost of handling and transporting the biomass pre-pyrolysis.

  • Charm has an impressive track record of execution. In just three years Charm progressed from a concept to being a leader in the space—delivering >6,000 tons of removal, more than any other permanent CDR supplier to date. Since starting operations in 2020, Charm has iterated on their core technology and key processes quickly and responsibly.

  • Still, Charm’s successful scaleup is not guaranteed. In the near-term, Charm’s declining cost curve depends on many things going right, such as building and efficiently operating pyrolyzers on-field, learning quickly from modular deployment, and securing adequate demand to get them down the cost curve.

  • At very large scales there are limits to any one carbon removal approach, Charm’s approach included. For example, (1) whether pyrolysis-to-bio-oil-sequestration will be the best use of waste biomass (even Charm plans to add pyrolysis-to-bio-oil-for-ironmaking) and (2) whether at huge scales, the marginal ton of waste biomass is still net-negative. However, these concerns for the pathway begin to emerge largely at the multi gigaton-scale. For context, most carbon pathways will face challenges at these mass volumes, hence the need for a portfolio of approaches, much like how renewable power at scale will likely be a mix of wind, solar, geothermal and nuclear.

Pricing and delivery

Frontier buyers’ total offtake is $53M for 112,000 tons. Buyers will pay a price per ton that will decline by at least 37% between 2024 and 2030, and could decline by as much as 75% based on Charm’s current scaling plans and factoring in the potential for expanded government incentives. The price accounts for both the removal itself as well as measuring, reporting and verifying (MRV) that each ton is safely and permanently stored.

This agreement includes key milestones that must be met prior to delivery, including pyrolyzer performance, community engagement, and monitoring and verification plans at the injection site. 

Bio-oil made from waste biomass is injected underground to store away carbon for millennia.

1. Based on estimates in Slade et al (2014), Tripathi et al (2019), and the BiCRS Roadmap (2020).