Climate change: Tencent chooses Chinese carbon capture and removal startups to receive RM65.45mil in funding

The company’s CarbonX programme, which finances new technologies that support China’s quest for net zero by 2060, announced 13 winners on Thursday. Once commercialised, each technology has the potential to eradicate 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year, Tencent estimates. — SCMP

Chinese tech behemoth Tencent is extending around 100 million yuan ($13.9 million) to fund technologies that prevent carbon dioxide emissions and suck the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere in a decarbonisation move that looks beyond solutions such as renewable energy and electric vehicles (EVs).

“Renewable energy, electric vehicles, and nature-based solutions are all examples of such bright spots,” said Xu Hao, Tencent’s vice-president of sustainable social value and head of Tencent’s Carbon Neutrality Lab, in an article published on Thursday, referring to conventional green technologies. “However, these solutions will not be enough.”

He was expressing support for carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technologies, which collect carbon dioxide (CO2) coming out of a facility before it enters the atmosphere, and carbon removal or carbon drawdown, a technique which captures from the atmosphere.

Once commercialised, each technology has the potential to eradicate 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year, equivalent to taking 20 million gas-powered cars off the road, Tencent estimates.

Asia’s largest carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) facility for the coal-fired power generation sector, developed by China Energy Investment Corporation (China Energy).The facility, attached to a generation unit at China Energy’s Taizhou coal-fired power plant, will capture 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) every year. Photo: Xinhua

The company’s CarbonX programme, an initiative launched in March last year to identify and nurture new technologies that support China’s quest for net zero by 2060, evaluated 300 applications and announced 13 first winners on Thursday that will receive financial and advisory support. Some of these winners will collaborate with Tencent’s industry partners to test their solutions in real-world settings.

“To pave the path for a greener economy, we must champion the development of cutting-edge low-carbon technologies,” said Jerry Yan, chair professor of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and co-chair of the CarbonX expert committee, in a statement on Thursday. “Just as solar and wind power were nurtured in their infancy, emerging solutions like CCUS and tech-based carbon removal demand our early support.”

CCUS is the process of capturing carbon dioxide from emission sources, such as power generation and industrial facilities, and either permanently storing it underground or using it for manufacturing building materials.

Carbon removal directly pulls carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, either using traditional methods like tree restoration, or innovative approaches like direct air capture or carbon mineralisation.

For many hard-to-abate sectors, such as cement, steel, and chemicals, CCUS presents opportunities to fully decarbonise them in the near term.

Although current costs for CCUS are high and have a wide range – they vary from US$15 (RM70) per tonne of carbon dioxide to nearly US$350 (RM1,648) per tonne – the technology is expected to progress rapidly, with capacity seen rising more than sixfold to 300 million metric tonnes a year globally by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency.

“We must rapidly explore new technologies that can reduce carbon emissions in many industries for which there is no cheap or easy path to decarbonisation. The next few years are critical,” Xu said.

The 13 projects Tencent is financing range from research projects at universities and labs to early-stage startups with commercialisation potential and to companies that work on the infrastructure and methodologies of CCUS. For example, some teams developed methods to use steel slag to capture and store carbon dioxide directly from blast furnace exhausts, and a few startups are converting carbon dioxide into sustainable aviation fuel and valuable chemicals through tools such as electrochemical reactions or microorganisms.

The Shenzhen-headquartered company, which plans to achieve carbon neutrality in its own operations and supply chain by 2030, will provide more than 200mil yuan (RM132.23mil) over the next three years to innovative ideas that focus on fighting climate change, the company announced last year. – South China Morning Post

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