With its proprietary technology, Toronto-based CHAR Technologies is producing renewable energy, replacing fossil fuels, and capturing carbon. We spoke to CEO Andrew White to learn more about the company’s recent successes and plans for the future.
Describe your core technology. What makes your solution different than anything else on the market? How is your company contributing to a cleaner, greener future?
Our high-temperature pyrolysis (HTP) heats materials in the absence of oxygen. Without oxygen, these materials can’t burn. Instead, the process converts them into heat, renewable gases, and a solid biochar, which can be used to capture carbon, or CleanFyre, a biocoal that our customers can use to offset fossil coal and reduce GHG emissions.
Our modular technology allows us to serve a number of markets. Essentially, we build the same HTP “oven” but make use of different types of feedstocks. We can use woody biomass and wood waste from construction demolition sites or sawmills, so we aren’t competing for highly marketable wood. A project we recently announced with Hitachi uses byproducts from first-generation anaerobic digesters. A third vertical is biosolids. And, with some of the largest engineering firms in the world, we’ve been able to show how we can use our HTP to handle and destroy PFAS from consumer products.
Other than coffee, what gets you out of bed in the morning? How does this work connect with your core beliefs and values?
As part of my graduate thesis work, I co-developed the core CHAR technology while working with anaerobic digestate and pyrolysis to make products. I’m a chemical engineer by training, and I’m passionate about our environment. For me, it needed to be part of my work.
When it comes to the future and our climate, I’m a “glass half-full” kind of person. I believe that we still have an opportunity to make a difference as long as we work together. At CHAR, we’ve set a goal to produce two million gigajoules of renewable natural gas in the next three years. It’s a lot, and it’s a great way to move energy – but we need so much more.
Tell us about a recent win (or wins) or your company.
It’s been a great year for us. In February, we closed our $6-million financing. In March, we announced a milestone order for 1,000 tonnes of our CleanFyre biocoal to help steel mills use less fossil coal. This is a great market for CHAR – everyone uses steel, and you need a solid carbon in a blast furnace to make the chemical reaction happen. To use a biocarbon in that process is a phenomenal opportunity.
We also announced our project with Hitachi Zosen Inova in California. As part of the agreement, our HTP system will convert 18,000 tonnes of solid anaerobic digestate into 1,320 tonnes of green hydrogen and 2,800 tonnes of biocarbon per year. We think this work will play an important role in the mix of green hydrogen moving forward.
What’s next for your company?
We’re moving forward with the rollout of HTP, which leads the way for our company’s ambitions. We’re planning to move to a build-own-operate model, and we want to continue to work with partners like Hitachi to integrate our process into their projects. We also expect more action in the biosolids sector to help reduce “forever” chemicals. It’s an exciting time for CHAR – and we’re hiring across the company to build our capacity.
Finally, what’s on your team’s wish list for Ontario’s cleantech sector?
It’s been great to see more opportunities open up in the markets we serve. Obviously, we’d like to see more of that happening. On the funding side, we’d like to see more support for companies moving beyond TRL 7. I’m not advocating for grants to build our commercial operations, but I’d love to see financing options that make sense for us, since we need some support on the risk side. OCTIA has done some great work on how cleantech could use flow-through shares. We definitely want to encourage a stronger appetite for this option.
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