California-based Twelve is one of the leading carbon utilization companies and a front-runner in producing chemicals and fuel from CO2. The company wants to cut emissions by breaking down and reforming pure carbon dioxide into nearly any chemical that is currently produced by fossil fuels.
As it stands the majority of products like synthetic rubber, yarn, polymers, plastics, fuels, detergents, etc. are all produced with the help of oil and gas. This leads to substantial emissions, with indirect and direct greenhouse gases from the use of petrochemicals coming at 5.6 Gt of CO2eq in 2020, according to research from Lund University in Sweden
Twelve’s emergence couldn’t come at a better time, with technology and demand coinciding to potentially disrupt several industries.
Twelve’s technology involves developing a suitcase-sized electrochemical reactor that takes in carbon dioxide emitted from waste or captured directly from the air and then uses a metal catalyst, electricity and water to recombine the elements into different chemicals.
The technology electrifies water and CO2 to produce chemicals and fuels with no emissions, just oxygen and water as by-products.
The company’s carbon transformation™ technology – Opus™, is a modular system designed to be integrated into existing industrial systems to the scale needed to transform current supply chains to utilize CO2.
Twelve’s focus is the production of sustainable aviation fuel known (SAF) as E-Jet or “electrofuel”, synthetically created through its technology. According to the company, it is its biggest focus as there is a lot of interest around it. For the production of SAF, it is partnering with Emerging Fuel Technology for a few additional technological aspects, outside its internal scope.
We spoke with Youseff Tazi, Senior Manager of CO2 Business Development at Twelve, who told us more about the company’s future plans, partnerships and industry demand.
“There is already demand, a lot of demand. We recently announced the groundbreaking of our first commercial small scale facility and we are going to produce SAF for Alaska Airlines. We also announced recently an MOU with Etihad to work together on SAF or produce SAF for them.
Something that is helping the industry grow are the incentives in the U.S. with federal, state and local support available. In states like California and Illinois the low carbon fuel standards pushed forward the demand. We think that the addressable market can be a billion gallons by 2030 to 2035,” he commented.
The company was founded in 2015 and recently announced that it has started the construction of its commercial-scale E-Jet fuel production facility in Moses Lake, Washington. The facility is scheduled to be operational in 2024 and will produce approximately 40,000 gallons of fuel per year.
“We are definitely planning on scaling our commercial facilities. Our pilot plant can be considered as a small commercial scale facility. If we need to produce billions of gallons we would need hundreds and thousands [of these facilities]. We are looking into developing those in the upcoming few years and producing at scale by 2026 to 2027,” explained Mr. Tazi.
The company is also looking to position its facilities at strategic locations where the three feedstocks needed in its process are available – water, CO2 and renewable energy. It has selected Washington State to host its pilot plant due to access to the latter.
“[Washington State] has hydropower and a lot of other renewable energy sources and it was easy for us to procure green power at this point in time. We also had the CO2 [and water] source aligned, so we had all the right parameters to build plants there,” said Mr Tazi.
“The other parameters are to be basically where the SAF needs to be offtaken. If there are no airports nearby with major airlines, the more costly it becomes and there is higher carbon intensity,” he elaborated.
CO2 availability is another issue. “There is a lot of CO2 available but the issue is biogenic CO2 because that’s the one we are interested in. Those are concentrated in the Midwest and you find some here and there from renewable natural gas plants and ethanol plants. Those are the two sources for CO2 that are economical today and available in big quantities,” Mr Tazi clarified.
The company is also planning to look at direct air capture in the mid to long term, as today it is still not economical. Tazi says that they see the price per ton of captured CO2 continuing to drop and considers the technology as a potential problem solver for the location.
Carbon capture utilization is a growing segment of the carbon management industry and will play an important role in addressing the emissions of today and tomorrow. Twelve’s technology seems to have found a source of substantial demand and could forge a path for other companies that use CO2 as a commodity, making it a desired resource with a certain price, rather than waste that just needs to be removed.