50 Best Companies to Watch 2020

The Pioneer in Direct Air Carbon Capture Technology: Global Thermostat


Climate Change is the defining issue of our time. Without drastic action today, adapting to the impacts of catastrophic climate change in the future will be more difficult and costly. The effects of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale and include drastic shifts in weather patterns that threaten food production, rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, among many others.

Greenhouse gases are the leading cause of the rapidly changing climate. Greenhouse gases occur naturally and are essential to the survival of humans and millions of other living things. However, after more than 150 years of industrialization, deforestation, and large-scale agriculture, the quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has risen to record levels not seen in three million years.

The gold standards for climate science – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) – all agree that the climate crisis is here, now, and that a continued increase in the global average temperature of 1.5 degrees will push many of the natural systems, those that sustain the global population and the global economy, past a dangerous turning point.

The same scientists also validate that, while there may be no single silver bullet, without CO2 removal, no amount of planting of trees, or reductions in emissions, or adoption of renewable energy will prevent the average global temperature rise from reaching catastrophic levels. The only way to protect against the existential risk of catastrophic climate change, now, is to remove massive amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. Scientific consensus is that Direct Air Capture (DAC) is the only technology that can achieve this in an economical way.

Founded in 2010, Global Thermostat’s proven, breakthrough technology cost-effectively removes CO2 directly from the atmosphere and from concentrated sources, including chimneys and industrial facilities. Cost-effective removal means that the levelized cost of removal of CO2 is lower than that of the market prices of CO2 in most markets. Global Thermostat calls it carbon negativeTM technology, as it reduces the concentration of CO2 already in the atmosphere. Global Thermostat makes profits from selling CO2 removed directly from air.

Global Thermostat has commercialized its technology and is fundamentally changing the way carbon is managed and utilized on a global scale. The company is turning CO2, the global liability of climate change, into a valuable commodity to serve a global CO2 market estimated to reach $1.0 trillion by 2030, according to McKinsey & Company. The CO2 removed from the atmosphere by Global Thermostat is used for and in a wide range of products and industries, including biofertilizers; industrial gases; food & beverage; building materials; synthetic fuels; seawater desalination; and enhanced oil recovery.

Global Thermostat is no stranger to worldwide recognition for its innovative technology. In fact, in February 2019, Bill Gates identified Global Thermostat’s Direct Air Capture technology among its “10 Breakthrough Technologies,” on the list curated for the MIT Technology Review.

In conversation with Dr. Graciela Chichilnisky, Co-Founder and CEO of Global Thermostat

Q. What are the real-time industrial applications of CO2 captured directly from the air?

Global Thermostat’s proven, breakthrough technology cost-effectively removes CO2 directly from the atmosphere. Our patented technology allows for CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere anywhere and at a low cost, making us the ideal company to support industries that utilize CO2, including seawater desalination, foods and beverages, building materials, synthetic fuels, biofertilizers, and industrial gases.

As of now, midway through 2020, Global Thermostat has several major commercial and joint development projects in various stages with its clients and partners. From a joint development agreement with ExxonMobil, one of the largest oil companies in the world, to jointly develop the next level of scale-up of our CO2 capture technology; to a commercial agreement with Air Liquide, a world leader in gases, technologies, and services for industry and health, with more than 3.6 million customers, to sell tonnes of CO2 for a multitude of industrial applications; to an agreement to supply 20,000 tonnes of CO2 per year to a large classical beverages company; to an agreements with ACWA and Saudi Aramco to supply CO2 for use in the desalination of water in the Middle East, Global Thermostat is leading the DAC of CO2 market.

Q. Carbon capture technology is assumed to be very expensive. How do you manage to lower the costs?

Global Thermostat developed its technology to be modular and scalable to accommodate smaller, distributed applications, such as the food and beverage industries, and larger facilities, such as power plants. Global Thermostat’s distributed embodiment units can involve capital costs as low as $2-3 million, depending on the capacity and form factor, and can generate potentially attractive returns. The ability to minimize or eliminate transportation costs, vastly simplifying end-user logistics, and the fact that Global Thermostat uses mostly residual low-temperature heat as a source of energy, represents a compelling attribute of the Global Thermostat technology and explains its low cost of operation.

Q. What are the regulatory and policy barriers to your services?

The central feature of the Kyoto Protocol was its requirement that countries limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By setting such targets, emission reductions took on economic value. To help countries meet their emission targets, and to encourage the private sector and developing countries to contribute to emission reduction efforts, we included two fundamental market-based mechanisms – carbon emissions trading and the clean development mechanism. These solutions have been proven to work. Unfortunately, they were only partially implemented globally. Our failure to implement it around the world requires that we change gears now.

Included in the U.S. budget bill, passed with bipartisan support, and signed into law in February 2018, was a tax credit for new direct air capture plants and other carbon capture and sequestration facilities built before 2024, which I originally authored. It included the FUTURE Act (45Q) legislation, offering tax credits for removing CO2 directly from the air. Under the FUTURE Act, tax credits are valued at $35-50 per tonne of CO2 removed and are practically unlimited. This tax legislation offers Global Thermostat’s customers and partners an additional incentive to utilize our technology in their operations. Between what we know now about the success of carbon markets, the clean development mechanism, and tax credit, like 45Q, we know that we can remove the barriers for mass adoption of Direct Air Capture.

In fact, I have a patent pending on a Clean Investment Mechanism that will further remove the barriers to the more widespread adoption of our technology.

Meet the leader behind the success of Global Thermostat

Dr. Graciela Chichilnisky is the Co-founder and CEO of Global Thermostat. Dr. Chichilnisky worked extensively on the Kyoto Protocol, creating and designing the carbon market that became international law in 2005. A world-renowned economist, Dr. Chichilnisky is the creator of the formal theory of Sustainable Development and acted as the Lead U.S. Author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which received the Nobel Prize in 2007. Dr. Chichilnisky’s pioneering work uses innovative market mechanisms to create Green Capitalism. Dr. Chichilnisky acts as special advisor to several U.N. organizations and heads of state.

“Our transformative technology provides an abundant, reliable source of CO2 drawn directly from the atmosphere at a low cost.”