Origen is transforming the carbon removal industry. Here’s how.

By Ben Turner, CEO, Origen

Summer 2022 may be remembered for a prolonged drought and record high temperatures in the UK. But for us at Origen, it’s been the culmination of years of ground-breaking research and development into a technology that has the potential to reverse the causes of climate change.

Which is why now is the time to provide an update on our activity over the last 12 months during which time we’ve passed important project milestones, forged new partnerships and secured high-profile funding from the world’s largest carbon removal purchasing group.

The first thing to say is that I’m pleased to announce that we have now emerged from a period where we have been effectively operating in stealth mode while working on our tech, to talk more openly about our plans and ambitions.

The founding principles of Origen

Origen’s founding principle is “the atmosphere, restored” – finding new ways to reverse the harm caused by almost two centuries of industrialisation.

And at the heart of what we do is calcium oxide — commonly known as lime — a material about which most of us don’t give a second thought. And yet, this important mineral is used throughout the world in construction, the manufacture of cement and steel, purifying drinking water and even refining sugar.

To understand Origen and the important work we do in looking to overturn centuries of damage to our environment, it’s important to understand why lime is such a wonder material.

The importance of lime and the role it plays in removing CO2 from the atmosphere

Lime has a natural affinity for reacting naturally with carbon dioxide (CO2) making it an ideal material for capturing CO2 from industrial processes and from the atmosphere itself.

But there’s a problem. Existing lime production technologies emit around a tonne of CO2 for every one tonne of lime produced, leading to the creation of millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions.

The breakthrough is that Origen has developed a lime kiln — based on our ZerCaL oxy-fuel flash calciner technology — that can separate and capture CO2 efficiently at source during the lime production process. Once isolated, the CO2 can then either be converted into useful products or stored permanently underground

Zero-carbon lime actively removes CO2 from the atmosphere

And it is the creation of zero-carbon lime that is a game-changer. Because one tonne of our zero-carbon lime can remove about 800kg of CO2.

Not only has Origen developed a technology that can decarbonise lime production and those industries that rely on this important mineral; crucially, it has created a method to produce zero-carbon lime that can be used by the emerging carbon removal industry to permanently remove CO2 from the atmosphere and even the world’s oceans.

Building a lime kiln to create zero carbon lime

After years of R&D, in October 2020 we announced a partnership with Singleton Birch — the UK’s leading independent supplier of lime — to build a zero-carbon lime kiln at its quarry at Melton Ross in North Lincolnshire.

In July 2022, this project reached an important milestone with a majority of construction work now complete despite supply chain issues made worse by the pandemic.

It’s taken a little over a year to reach this stage and I must thank everyone at Singleton Birch — and the Origen team as well — for the work they have done to make this happen.

Work has already begun on the next phase of the project including the work required to commission the kiln.

The smooth running of our build timetable and completion of key phases couldn’t have come at a better time.

Joint zero-carbon lime and direct air capture project announced with 8 Rivers

In June, we confirmed that a joint project with 8 Rivers Capital LLC to create a direct air capture facility to pull a thousand tonnes of CO2 a year directly from the air had been given the green light.

The 8 Rivers direct air capture (DAC) solution is to be located adjacent to our newly completed kiln on Humberside.

In what is a truly innovative step forward in carbon removal, the project will marry our zero-carbon lime manufacturing process with 8 Rivers’ Calcite Carbon Removal technology.

Once up and running, the joint project will demonstrate a new approach to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Financial backing from industry-leading Stripe-backed Frontier

Recognising the huge potential of the technology, in June 2022 the project was selected for $1.5 million in carbon removal purchases from Frontier, the advance market commitment to buy permanent carbon removal.

To receive this endorsement for the work we’re doing with 8 Rivers shows what can be achieved when you collaborate for good.

Working with our partners, we know our innovative technology can build a cleaner future by removing the CO2 emissions of our past. To us at Origen, restoring the earth’s atmosphere isn’t just about blue-sky thinking, it’s about radical blue-sky doing.

The award and recognition for this collaborative project will help us achieve the goal of reversing climate change.

Investing in the future

As of today, we have closed out several rounds of funding, raised $20 million between equity fundraisers and grants including more than $3.5m from the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). We continue to talk with investors — as well as companies looking to harness our technology — about the important role our technology can play in reversing the damage of the past.

But this is just the beginning. With funding in place to deliver the pilot plant, we will be looking to raise further capital in 2023 to build scale and develop our technology further.

Collaboration for good

Make no mistake. The work we’re doing with all our partners is a major collaboration for good.

While many industries are focusing on capturing their own emissions — as our pilot plant does — our longer-term strategy is to develop our own technology further so that it actively removes CO2 from the atmosphere.

As I said at the beginning, Summer 2022 has been an important milestone for Origen. The build work on our lime kiln with Singleton Birch is now complete ahead of commissioning. Our major collaboration with 8Rivers to develop a direct air capture plant has received financial backing from Frontier. And we’re already talking with potential investors as we work to implement the next phase of our plan.

As we embark on the next phase of our work, we’re calling on all leaders to catalyse a new Giga-industry – on a scale that the world has never seen – that can reverse the harm caused by more than a century of industrialisation.

No more excuses. No more blue sky thinking. It’s time for blue sky doing.

If you’re interested in finding out more about our work, please send me an email or connect with me on LinkedIn.

You can also find out more about what we’re doing via our company LinkedIn.