How 2 companies are taking different approaches to carbon capture as climate reports show rising temperatures

Recent climate reports have shown alarming trends as 2023 was confirmed as the hottest year on record and rising temperatures led to the loss of 1 million square kilometers of arctic ice in the last year. 

As the Biden administration is committing nearly $4 billion toward jumpstarting a new carbon capture industry in the U.S., CBS News was given an inside look at two companies taking different approaches to process.

Graphyte is a startup that takes leftover material from timber and rice mills and turns it into bricks to be wrapped up and buried in the ground — for now, in a field in central Arkansas.

“We’re taking the carbon captured by plants and keeping it out of the atmosphere for a thousand years or more,” said Graphyte CEO Barclay Rogers.

Graphyte plans to turn an empty warehouse into the world’s largest carbon removal facility, eventually removing 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year — about the equivalent of taking 10,000 cars off the road. American Airlines is currently paying Graphyte to offset some of the pollution from its flights.

To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, scientists say we need to stop burning fossil fuels and switch to cleaner forms of energy. But, they say, billions of tons of carbon that have already been put into the atmosphere also need to be removed.

Heirloom Carbon recently opened the nation’s first commercial direct air capture plant in Central California. The automated facility stacks trays of limestone 40 feet high, allowing the rock to suck carbon dioxide from the air like a sponge. The stone can do in days what nature would normally take months to accomplish.

Heirloom Carbon said its pilot plant removes just 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, but it plans to build facilities that capture 1,000 times more. 

While carbon capture is often criticized for its cost, with opponents saying the money would be better spent on pursuing renewable energy sources, Heirloom Carbon CEO Shashank Samala says it’s an essential part of the climate change solution.

“We need to start turning back the clock on climate change/what carbon removal offers us is the closest thing to a time machine,” he said.

Protecting the Planet: Climate Change News & Features

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Ben Tracy is CBS News’ senior national and environmental correspondent based in Los Angeles. He reports for all CBS News platforms, including the “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell,” “CBS Mornings” and “CBS Sunday Morning.”

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