This week Moji Karimi, the CEO of Cemvita Factory, reveals how he is decarbonizing the chemical industry.
Can you describe what Cemvita Factory does and the potential impact?
We engineer microbes to use carbon dioxide or methane as a feedstock to produce carbon-negative industrial chemicals. Because we are using emissions as input, we lower the feedstock cost, and since nature-inspired bioprocesses happen under ambient temperature, we eliminate the emissions and cost due to the status quo energy-intensive chemical reactions. The addition of these two benefits makes it possible for us to produce carbon-negative chemicals. Our platform is designed to create custom microbes for clients through a rapid, affordable, and repeatable process. These are oil and gas, chemical, mining, and aerospace companies that strive to apply nature-inspired technologies for reducing their carbon footprint while creating new revenue streams.
Our vision is to scale our platform to utilize 1 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year by 2050. We believe this is possible since we are targeting chemical intermediates that have huge market sizes, especially the precursors to polymers and plastics. For example, with bioethylene alone we can get to 20 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2030 and ramp up to more than 500 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2050. That’s just one molecule and we have 30 more that we’ll be commercializing with our partners in the years to come.
How do you differentiate yourself from competition?
There are three main pieces that differentiate us.
We are carbon negative. We achieve this by specializing in using carbon dioxide and methane as feedstock. This leads to our special focus on the microorganisms that use those as feedstock. Most typical synthetic biology companies use model microorganisms like E-coli and using sugar as feedstock.
Other differentiator is that we can help scale up our carbon dioxide utilization pathways. We have bioreactors from 0.1L to 1000L. This scale up process helps us go from biochemistry to chemical engineering and then to process engineering, which is what our clients need.
What does the current landscape look like?
The carbon capture and utilization market is rapidly growing. The global market size for carbon dioxide utilization is set to reach a market value of $70 billion by 2030, which will then increase to $550 billion by 2040. Many companies are capturing or planning to capture carbon dioxide but don’t know what to do with it other than pumping it underground when/where possible. There is a huge demand for carbon dioxide utilization, and we have a very tangible solution.
What does the future look like?
The future is climate-positive and carbon-negative, but the pathways to get there need to be developed. In our view, the future is not just a function of time passing but what we proactively create. We have a mission to utilize 1 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year by 2050, but that’s not enough, we also have a realistic route to getting there.
As manufacturing moves towards more sustainable materials, chemicals are a decent piece of the puzzle. The question I am thinking about is what will the competition look like? Cemvita Factory focuses on producing specific chemicals for manufacturers, but how will individual chemicals compete with one another? Will Cemvita’s process compete on margin with others? What about competing with impact, as other companies are chemically recycling waste? One thing is for sure, there is demand for this technology from investors and manufacturers.
About The Author
Co-Founder at The Impact
Daniel currently works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His original assignment was to maintain and update facility safety documentation for all facilities on-site, and perform risk analysis. Over time, his role has expanded to leading continuous improvement efforts through product management.
Concurrently, Daniel volunteers with Techstars, helping organize startup weekends, and with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, organizing events on the local and national levels of the organization. He also volunteers with One World, and previously with Powerhouse Ventures, to source and screen startups for potential investment.
Daniel holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis, and recently completed coursework in energy innovation from Stanford. His passion is at the intersection of sustainability, innovation, and business.