Locking up carbon with corn, and the path to greener steel

In recent weeks, a team of employees at a company called Charm Industrial has been working on the edge of Kansas cornfields, moving rolled bales of stalks, leaves, plunge and tassels to a semi-trailer.

Inside, a contraction called a pyrolyzer uses high temperatures in the absence of oxygen to break down plant material into a mixture of biochar and bio-oil. The oil is pumped into EPA-controlled deep wells or salt caves used for industrial waste. Charm says it gets stronger there, removing the carbon for thousands to millions of years that would otherwise go back into the air as farmers burn the crop residue or leave it to rot.

The San Francisco startup has been isolating carbon in this way for the past two years, working on behalf of companies including Microsoft. Late last year, it announced that the process had secured the equivalent of about 5,500 tonnes of CO2 securely so far, claiming it was the largest amount of long-term carbon removal ever.

But there are still plenty of questions about how reliable, measurable and economical this approach will be. Read the full story.

– James Temple

How Charm hopes to use the crop to reduce industrial steel emissions

Charm Industrial is also exploring whether the same bio-oil could be used to reduce emissions from iron and steel production, adopting a new way to clean up the most polluted industrial area.

Amid heavy emissions and increasingly stringent climate policies, this approach could be welcome news for companies forced to explore clean manufacturing practices. Read the full story.

– James Temple

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