Kenyan startup Octavia Carbon is the Global South’s first direct air capture (DAC) company, designing, building, and soon deploying machines that directly capture CO2 from the atmosphere.
Founded in March 2022, aimed at “reversing climate change”, Octavia Carbon is leveraging Kenya’s renewable energy, geology, and talent to deploy and scale DAC at a low cost.
The company has so far built five at-scale DAC machines. Through these iterations of the technology, it has standardised its design for mass production, and it is now gearing up to build its pilot plant – Project Hummingbird – which will remove 1000 tCO2 per year. The project will be based in Naivasha, a town along the Kenyan Rift Valley.
“We have partnered with Cella Mineral Storage, a carbon mineralisation company with operations in Kenya, to handle the CO2 storage phase of the project. Cella will inject our captured CO2 underground into basalt formations and through chemical reactions the CO2 will gradually turn into carbonate minerals. The Kenyan Rift is rich in basalt formations which are natural reservoirs for CO2 storage. This eliminates the need for us to invest in capital and emissions intensive infrastructure to transport our CO2 to storage sites,” said Octavia Carbon founder Martin Freimüller.
“To overcome the energy intensity of the DAC process, we have tailored our technology to relying on waste heat for the bulk of its energy needs. This lends it perfectly to integrating with geothermal operations which provide both the electricity and waste heat required for the process.”
Freimüller, an Austian national, moved to Kenya after realising the opportunities for DAC in the country, and recruited Fiona Mugambi, Duncan Kariuki and Mike Bwondera to join the founding team.
“Recognising the growing demand for durable and verifiable carbon credits in the carbon market, we embarked on developing our pilot DAC+Storage plant that will generate our initial credits,” he said.
“While the DAC landscape is evolving, we are certain that our commitment to leveraging Kenya’s demographic and natural endowments in deploying DAC at a low cost will keep us ahead of the curve.”
Octavia has raised US$540,000 in pre-seed investment from Catalyst Fund, the Shared Future, and a number of angel investors. It is currently raising a seed round of US$6 million that it will use to grow its team, advance its technology, and build the pilot plant.
“Through our project, we will create green jobs for local pastoralist communities whose traditional livelihoods have been impacted by prolonged droughts,” said Freimüller. “A portion of our revenue will also be used to finance local initiatives including educational programmes centered on climate innovation. This unique combination has resonated well with most of our buyers, leading to a growing interest in our offerings.”