Noya ($12M for using cooling towers to capture CO2)

Noya works on Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology to remove excess carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere. The company retrofits existing pieces of industrial cooling towers and turns them into CO₂ capture machines, radically reducing the upfront capital costs and installation time required for direct air capture technology.

Challenges: Carbon removal

Carbon removal is the process of permanently sequestering carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere. It is essential to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and limit the increase in temperature to 1.5 ºC as outlined in the Paris Agreement.

Different methods for removing CO₂ have distinct advantages and disadvantages, with nature-based methods such as tree planting and forest restoration being the most widely used today. However, the carbon can be released back into the atmosphere when the plants die or burn, so these solutions are likely to have a shorter lifespan.

Technological carbon removal methods include carbon capture and storage (CCS), which involves capturing CO₂ from emission sources such as coal-burning power plants and converting it to other products, storing it, or burying it. Direct air capture (DAC) is another technological approach that involves removing CO₂ from the atmosphere and sequestering it underground.

Direct Air Capture CO2

Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology has several advantages. One of the biggest benefits of DAC is its siting flexibility, as it does not require arable land, thereby minimizing food impacts. DAC can be employed in a wide variety of locations and requires a smaller footprint. It is also location-independent, as CO₂ is in the air at the same concentration (0.04% or 412 ppm) everywhere in the world, making DAC highly scalable and measurable.

However, despite its benefits and flexibility, DAC is more costly per ton of CO₂ removed than many mitigation approaches and natural climate solutions, as separating dilute CO₂ from ambient air is energy-intensive. Today, the range of costs for DAC varies between $250 and $600.

Direct Air Capture companies

Several companies, including Climeworks, Carbon Engineering, and Heirloom, are developing DAC technology.

Climeworks specializes in DAC technology that extracts CO₂ from the air using a solid sorbent. The company’s DAC plants consist of several sorbent-containing modular units. The captured CO₂ is then released through a regeneration process, while the sorbent material is reused. Climeworks has developed several DAC plants worldwide and is working to scale up its technology to capture millions of tons of CO₂ annually. The company is also exploring the potential of using the captured CO₂ for various applications, such as producing carbon-neutral fuels and materials.

Carbon Engineering DAC technology is an engineered mechanical system that extracts CO₂ from the air using a combination of fans, filters, and chemical reactions. The captured CO₂ is then compressed and stored underground or reused. Carbon Engineering’s DAC technology is capable of capturing millions of tons of CO₂ annually, and individual DAC facilities can be built to capture one million tons of CO₂ annually. Carbon Engineering has received investments from several energy companies, including Chevron Corporation, Occidental Petroleum, and BHP.

Heirloom uses limestone (CaCO₃) instead of synthetic sorbents to capture CO₂ from the air and store it safely and permanently. Limestone is heated in renewable-energy powered calciners to remove CO₂ and produce Ca(OH)₂ sorbents from the hydration of CaO powders. Ca(OH)₂ sorbents are placed on vertically stacked trays, and algorithms are used to optimize their capacity to absorb CO₂ in different environmental conditions. Heirloom’s DAC technology accelerates the natural property of limestone, reducing the time it takes to absorb CO₂ from years to just three days. The company claims that its technology has the lowest peer-reviewed, at-scale cost of any direct air capture technology on the market.

Noya Technology

Noya has developed a unique DAC technology that  combines the existing pieces of industrial cooling towers with solid CO₂ sorbents. This transforms industrial cooling towers into CO₂ capture machines, which radically reduces the upfront capital costs and installation time required to perform direct air capture. Therefore, Noya’s approach to DAC will enable them to scale quickly and provide low-priced carbon removal in the near-term.

Why does Noya use cooling towers?

A cooling tower is a tall structure that exposes hot water to air in order to cool and evaporate it. Cooling towers remove heat from process water by evaporation and latent heat. In other words, the cooling tower is a specialized heat exchanger that brings air and water into direct contact in order to lower the temperature of the water. There are more than 2 million cooling towers in the United States.

As depicted in the diagram below, the hot water from an industrial process is pumped to the cooling tower through pipes. The water is sprayed through nozzles onto banks of cooling fill, which slows the flow of water through the cooling tower. Maximum air-water contact is achieved by exposing as much water surface area as possible with the cooling fill. As water flows through the cooling tower, it comes into contact with air. When the water and air come into contact, a small amount of water is evaporated, producing a cooling effect. The air is pulled through the tower by the electric motor-driven fan on top of the cooling tower.

How does a cooling tower work
How does a cooling tower work?

Noya uses cooling towers to provide the energy necessary to move air through sorbents that extract CO₂ from the air, thereby eliminating the need for mechanical devices to drive air flow for CO₂ capture, as is the case with the majority of other companies in this industry.

Noya Direct Air Capture technology

The diagram below depicts the overall system of Noya’s DAC technology.

The system of Noya Direct Air Capture technology (ref. US20230036635A1).
The system of Noya Direct Air Capture technology (ref. US20230036635A1).

The system comprises a cooling tower, an air contactor that captures CO₂, a regeneration reactor,  sensors and monitors, a compressor, and a CO₂ tank.

  • Air contactor

The air contactor can be attached to the cooling tower’s top or an air inlet.

The air contactor contains at least 35 kg of solid CO₂ sorbents. The capacity of the sorbent for CO₂ ranges between 0.1 mmol/g and 1.2 mmol/g. The sorbent has a structure of monoliths, foam, laminate, or fabric, which provides faster mass transfer kinetics, shorter diffusion path, easier heat transfer in all directions, and more uniform temperature distribution in comparison to beads, pellets, or power sorbent.

The sorbent comprises at least one of magnesium oxide (MgO) aerogel and aluminum oxide (Al₂O₃). These materials are sinterable, stable, resistant to moisture, easy to control, porous, inexpensive, and formable. The sorbents may contain other materials, such as potassium carbonate (K₂CO₃) and activated carbon. The CO₂ capture rate of the sorbent is between 0.01 to and 2 mmol/min/g of sorbent.

  • Regeneration reactor

The regeneration reactor releases the captured CO₂ by heating the CO₂-saturated solid sorbent from the contactor to a sufficient temperature between 80 ºC and 600 ºC for about 15 minutes to about 200 minutes for the sorbent to release the CO₂.

Noya’s solid CO₂ sorbent requires less thermal energy input to liberate CO₂. This reduces process operational costs. In addition, the regeneration reactor has a chamber that creates and sustains a vacuum environment to facilitate CO₂ release. The reactor can be powered by renewable electricity.

  • Sensors and monitors

The CO₂ sensors monitor the absorption rate and allow the system to determine an amount of CO₂ likely captured by the sorbent. Based on the determination, the sorbent may be transported to the regeneration reactor.

How does Noya Direct Air Capture technology work?

A cooling tower provides the flow of air through the air contactor which contains solid CO₂ sorbents. The sorbent captures CO₂ from the air. The CO₂-saturated sorbent is then transported to a regeneration reactor. Under high temperature and vacuum, the captured CO₂ is released from sorbent in the regeneration reactor. The regenerated sorbent is transported back to the air contactor. The released high-purity CO₂ is pressurized to a liquefaction pressure of about 800 psi and then stored in a CO₂ tank.

As the sorbent particles are transported between the air contactor and the regeneration reactor, the sorbent is subjected to wear and abrasive forces over time. When the particle size of the solid sorbent is smaller (due to attrition) than the absorption container’s “permeable” holes, the sorbent is replaced. When the solid sorbent is formed into pellets, it can be reground and sintered to achieve the desired shape and size.

Noya Patent

  • US20230036635A1 Systems and methods for capturing carbon dioxide

Noya Products

The market for Direct Air Capture technology is growing rapidly, and it is expected to reach $6.86 billion by 2029 with a CAGR ( Compound Annual Growth Rate).

In April 2023, Noya received a $11 million Series A round investment to accelerate the release of their first commercial pilot.

Noya Funding

Noya has raised a total of $12.2M in funding over 3 rounds, including

Their latest funding was raised on Apr 11, 2023 from a Series A round.

The funding types of Noya.
The funding types of Noya.
The cumulative raised funding of Noya.
The cumulative raised funding of Noya.

Noya Investors

Noya is funded by 12 investors, including

EQT and Lowercarbon Capital are the most recent investors.

The funding rounds by investors of Noya.
The funding rounds by investors of Noya.

Noya Founder

Josh Santos and Daniel Cavero are Co-Founder.

Noya CEO

Josh Santos is CEO.

Noya Board Member and Advisor

Fred Wilson and Sophie Bakalar are Board Member.

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