You founded Heimdal with your friend Marcus Lima in 2020. How long before did you have the idea for the company and what was it initially inspired by?
We started working on the company in October 2020. We started the company because climate change is the biggest threat to humanity. Whilst Marcus was doing his thesis on direct air carbon capture we started looking at how these methods could be improved, we then iterated through many different forms of our process until we came to our current embodiment.
If you could go back a few years, would you still apply to study the same at university, and was it similar to what you expected?
Yes, I would absolutely apply to the same university, what is so amazing about Oxford is that everybody has got so much going on – whether that’s captaining a sports team, campaigning on issues, starting a business, doing research on the side, etc.. It gives you so much motivation to do something yourself.
Could you explain the Heimdal service to our readers, and how it’s different from other negative emission tech?
We build machines that extract calcium and magnesium carbonate from the ocean to make the world’s first carbon negative concrete and glass. The concrete industry alone accounts for 8% of global CO2 emissions and has a market size of $300bn annually. The process is better than our competitors as it requires no retrofitting for existing cement manufacturers. It is simply a case of purchasing our synthetic calcium carbonate made from atmospheric CO2 rather than buying from mining companies. This can then be fed into their existing infrastructure to make chemically identical cement and concrete.
In terms of permanence of removal, how does Heimdal compare to other popular methods? How should people think about permanence, leakage, and optimal location of Heimdal plants?
Currently, our focus is on using the carbonates in the cement and glass manufacturing process in order to decarbonize these very difficult sectors. This prevents the emission of new carbon dioxide from burning mined limestone, which can be thought of in the same way as burning oil, we instead make synthetic limestone from CO2 in the atmosphere. In the future, the carbonates can also be buried as a solid powder which makes a very permanent store of CO2. Most DAC companies store the CO2 as a gas, which is more difficult to ensure permanence.
Where do you hope Heimdal is in 3 years and in 5 years?
In 3 years Heimdal will be capturing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2 per year and fulfilling the carbonate input requirements of plants all over the world. In 5 years this will be in the millions of tonnes of CO2.
What are the most overlooked opportunities in cleantech and climate, in your opinion?
Nature-based solutions are also essential if we are to capture enough CO2 to limit the warming and I see carbon farming through forestry as still a relatively overlooked area which will grow in a similar manner to solar power.
If you could enact some policy, what would it be?
In terms of policy, in my opinion capitalism is the best way to solve the problem and so ideally a global carbon tax, but I’m not holding my breath on that one!
What are the major challenges at Heimdal today, and in the coming years?
Our challenge is now in hiring the best people in order to make our product the best possible such that we can extract as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the shortest period. Only with the best people moving into the carbon capture industry can the world meet its carbon removal goals.
You’re working with some very well known investors. How did this come about? In ways expected or unexpected?
Our investors came largely through the Y Combinator program and we definitely did not expect the amount of interest we received in our round.
Any favorite cleantech company or persona which inspires you?
My favorite cleantech company is Terraformation, which is terraforming harsh environments to enable the growth of trees in order to reverse climate change.
How can readers think about the pricing which Heimdal can achieve – and how it’s going to develop – and what this means for your growth and the consumer? We often hear “negative emissions are expensive,” but this was the same story for many advances – batteries come to mind – which followed a sort of Moore’s Law of their own. Are we going to see a Moore’s Law of negative emission tech?
There will definitely be a Moore’s law in carbon capture but I don’t think people should be waiting around for the price to drop. Companies should instead be finding ways of using the captured CO2 such that the economics work in today’s markets. Otherwise, it will be too late before real progress is made.
Is Oxford an upcoming center of negative emissions tech? Where is Heimdal setting up its HQ and why?
We are yet to decide where we will set up our HQ.