Our Investment in Noya

Using cooling towers to capture and recycle CO2

A throughline of the decarbonization story we’ve been hearing is the need to update legacy infrastructure that has contributed to the centuries of heavy emissions output since the Industrial Revolution. From factories and manufacturing plants to the built environment, much of the challenge lies not only in deploying technologies to decarbonize these structures but also in developing compelling economic incentives that lead industries and owners to adopt them. 

One company that is doing this is San Francisco-based Noya, which envisions a world where the over 2 million cooling towers in the U.S. are retrofitted to capture, store, and recycle CO2. Through its proprietary technology, Noya aims to capture 7 gigatons of carbon emissions at scale and at a removal cost that is half the current market price. We’re excited to support founders, Josh Santos and Daniel Cavero, as the team embarks on its mission of repurposing cooling towers for carbon removal in a cost-effective way that’s profitable for stakeholders. 

The Noya team displaying a prototype of its carbon capture apparatus.

With our seed investment in Noya, we’re proudly joining the ranks of several of its other investors whom we highly respect and admire; they include Lowercarbon Capital, Fifty Years, and Y Combinator.

What is Noya?

Noya retrofits businesses, whose cooling towers move heavy volumes of CO2, with technology that captures carbon and converts it into a high-grade form that can be sold to manufacturers who use it as feedstock. The company envisions serving a range of businesses that utilize cooling towers, including commercial real estate, dairy manufacturers, chemical companies, and oil & gas facilities. For its recycled CO2, it sees several existing markets to which it can sell: food & beverage (e.g. beer & cider production), research labs, and industries (e.g. synthetic fuels) that require carbon dioxide as a key input. Proceeds from the sale of recycled CO2 would be shared with businesses who adopt Noya’s technology for their cooling tower.

A diagram depicting the interior of a typical cooling tower and how Noya generally intends to capture carbon from it.

Noya also sees an opportunity to sell verifiable carbon offsets into the growing billion-dollar voluntary and compliance markets.

Why Did We Invest?

Founder Fit

Both Josh and Daniel have robust engineering backgrounds (in the domains of chem-bio and mechanical engineering, respectively) and collectively possess the technical and sales acumen needed to deliver Noya’s solution to market. We were both inspired (and humored) by their story of developing the early-prototype of the carbon capture machinery in the founders’ San Francisco backyard, where the rocket-looking contraption alarmed their neighbors enough to call the local bomb squad. We very much value this scrappy and resourceful spirit that has not only won over our support but also that of other prominent backers of Noya.

Capturing CO2 Using Existing Infrastructure

Compared with other direct air capture (DAC) solutions which call for building out large and expensive industrial fans to pull carbon from diffuse ambient air, Noya offers a compelling solution that attempts to leverage existing cooling towers to sequester emissions. By capturing carbon in the air that passes through a cooling tower, Noya believes it can offer an efficient and effective means of carbon removal at a much lower cost. Moreover, Noya’s customers, be they makers of beverages or synthetic fuels, will have a local source of CO2 that has significantly lower embodied emissions than with existing providers (cf. CO2 from corn-produced ethanol).

Aligned Incentives with Emitting Businesses

As alluded to earlier, we feel strongly that persuasive economic incentives are needed in order to compel businesses, with some of the largest GHG footprints, to invest in new carbon abatement technologies. While compliance with new regulations will serve as a necessary tailwind, Noya’s proposition of shared revenue, coupled with relatively low implementation costs, should help drive adoption.

As the team graduates from the most recent class of Y Combinator, we see a company with great ambition and the necessary talent to accomplish it. We’re looking forward to Noya becoming one of a panoply of DAC solutions and, one day, celebrating with a drink infused with some of their recycled CO2. 

Additional Reading

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