Quebec businessman Frédéric Lalonde wants to accelerate the growth of the carbon capture industry to avoid climate catastrophe.
His company Deep Sky is reportedly on the verge of concluding a round of financing “between 75 million and 100 million” and has targeted “six to seven” sites to develop projects in Quebec in order to test capture and burial technology carbon, explained Mr. Lalonde in an interview on Monday, on the sidelines of a speech to the Canadian Club of Montreal.
Usually, a start-up company would not multiply projects in order to manage its risk, but the climate emergency makes it necessary to increase risk-taking, responds the man who is also the big boss and co-founder of the travel application Hopper.
We try to ensure that, in the next five to ten years, we do what we should have done in the last thirty, which means that we take risks, but we must also build something big enough to see where the problems are, what the costs are.
By his own admission, Mr. Lalonde recognizes that the carbon capture industry is not yet ready to remove this greenhouse gas from the planet on a large scale. Questions remain about how to do this effectively and at a viable cost.
“The problem is that even if someone said to me: ‘We’re going to give you a billion dollars,’ I don’t know what [en faire]. It was never put into operation. There are only three reactors operating at the moment, in addition to a site in Iceland. We don’t have the data. We don’t know how much energy [ça prend]. We do not know the effects of temperature and humidity. »
The entrepreneur hopes Deep Sky’s pilot projects will lead to larger-scale storage capacity. “I expect we will catch a few thousand tonnes next year. Then there, I would like to be in the 100,000 within 24 months. »
“Cool the planet”
With supporting graphics, Mr. Lalonde warned his audience about the devastating consequences of global warming, particularly on agriculture. The energy transition and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions would not be enough to avoid the worst.
The catastrophe could only be avoided by removing CO2 of the atmosphere, he warns. “We are going to have to cool the planet. We’re going to have to lower our concentration [de CO2]. »
To achieve this, Deep Sky wants to capture carbon from the air and ocean and then transport it to a site where it could be injected underground. “In principle, he [le CO2] should remain underground perpetually, but we are at least talking about a 1000-year guarantee, says the businessman in an interview. It’s very different from saying: ‘I’m going to plant a tree that might grow, maybe it wouldn’t.’ »
Geology is the main technical challenge for the capture industry, believes Mr. Lalonde. “I can find a place that makes coffee in Berlin from my cell phone in Montreal, but I can’t know what’s ten meters below us right now. There is really an information problem around this. Little is known about the geological structures for storage. »
Canada could become the “Saudi Arabia of carbon capture.” Renewable energy sources as well as the presence on its vast territory of geological formations favorable to the burial of carbon give it the tools to stand out, believes Mr. Lalonde.
He says Deep Sky is attracting interest from Ottawa and Quebec. The provincial government, through Investissement Québec, has already expressed interest in Deep Sky’s mission by injecting 5 million into a first round of financing of 10 million. The idea was to fund research into available technologies.
Mr. Lalonde says that a next round of financing should take place by the end of the year to raise between 75 million and 100 million in capital. The businessman says he is hopeful of obtaining financial support from Quebec and the federal government as well as private sector investors.
Obtaining a block of energy is a challenge for any industrial project that wants to take off in Quebec, while Hydro-Québec is considering the end of surpluses for 2027.
The businessman believes that Deep Sky will be able to convince the Ministry of the Economy, Innovation and Energy (MEIE) of the relevance of its project. “We wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t the case. »
One of the advantages of carbon capture plants is that they could adjust to peak periods which saturate the Hydro-Québec network, particularly in winter.
“We can easily imagine a carbon retirement infrastructure that operates at full capacity at night in the summer and that as we need energy for industrial, for residential, we reduce the capacity capture. […] When we presented it like that to the MEIE, we started to open doors. »