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December 10, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Memphis start-up inks major deal with American Airlines

Graphyte, backed by Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures, is focused on a carbon removal technology named carbon casting.

A Memphis-based start-up named Graphyte has landed a big inaugural customer to permanently store carbon underground while also garnering a good deal of national visibility from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Time, The Washington Post, and Bloomberg.

Graphyte, a carbon removal start-up backed by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the Bill Gates fund, announced recently that American Airlines will be its inaugural customer, with the purchase of 10,000 tons of permanent carbon removal to be delivered in early 2025.

The company’s carbon casting process leverages readily available biomass, efficient processing, and state-of-the-art monitoring to make carbon dioxide (CO2) removal quantifiable and permanent. Relative to existing carbon removal approaches, carbon casting permanently removes and stores CO2 using significantly less energy and at a substantially lower cost.

“This is a landmark agreement for both Graphyte and American Airlines,” said Barclay Rogers, Chief Executive Officer of Graphyte. “It demonstrates the growing demand for affordable and scalable high-quality carbon removal credits and the ability of carbon casting technology to make a significant impact in the fight against climate change in the very near term.”

As described in this article that appeared in The Verge, American Airlines signed the deal as part of the airline’s plans to limit the pollution causing climate change, and it marks the first major deal for the Gates-backed start-up that’s developing cutting-edge technology to tackle the problem.

“Graphyte claims that it can capture carbon for the low, low price of $100 per ton,” Justine Calma writes. “For comparison, the largest carbon dioxide removal plant operating today captures CO2 for companies including Microsoft, Stripe, and Shopify for around $600 a ton. Considering American Airlines produced the equivalent of 49 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2022, you can see how carbon removal costs can balloon.”

Carbon casting leverages readily available biomass byproducts, including crop and wood residues, that have already captured significant CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. The biomass is then dried to prevent decomposition, converted into dense carbon blocks (see feature image), wrapped in an environmentally safe polymer barrier, and monitored in a state-of-the-art underground storage facility. The first commercial-scale deployment of carbon casting will take place at a Graphyte facility in Pine Bluff, AR, which sits at an intersection of major agricultural and timber production areas.

To learn more about the carbon casting process, you can watch this video.

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