The tech boss who wants to vacuum up London's dirty air

Simon English
·2 min read
Shutterstock
Shutterstock

LONDONERS can claim brilliance in all sorts of fields. One area in which they are definitely world experts is breathing in filthy, CO2 saturated air, whether dodging black cabs at Piccadilly Circus or crossing Oxford Street behind the number 23 bus.

One new British company thinks it has the solution to this, a path to a cleaner City, and country.

Storegga is working on “direct air capture”, a process that involves sucking in dirty air, cleaning it, and spitting it back out free of CO2.

Where does the CO2 go? Ideally buried in the rocks from whence it came.

Founder and boss Nick Cooper is well known to London investors as the former boss of gas company Ophir Energy, and has teamed up with some of his old mates to launch the tech he believes can change all our lives.

(An aside: he is also the founder of Bedlam Brewery which is behind a few beers familiar to pub goers.)

He describes the tech as like the Teletubbies funnel Noo-noo which likes to hoover up custard, among other things.

As companies race to get carbon neutral, both for PR reasons and for the good of the environment, demand for direct air capture will only grow, he reckons.

Investment has come in from serious places including Aussie bank Macquarie and Storegga has lately linked up with a Bill Gates company called Carbon Engineering to work on carbon capture.

The motivation? Complaints from his family.

“I had two teenage daughters nagging me to do something different, something that really mattered,” he says. “There has been a lot of talk about carbon capture, now people really want to get on with it.”

Storegga has 45 staff, mostly in Scotland. At the moment it is what is euphemistically called “pre-revenue” – it hasn’t made any money.

But analysis by Strathclyde University shows that the UK’s carbon capture industry could be worth more than £50 billion by 2050. Cooper aims to suck up a fair slice of that.

Storegga has recently bought Pale Blue Dot which owns the Acorn carbon capture and storage facility in Scotland – the most advanced carbon capture project in the UK.

Why is it called Storegga? About 8,000 years ago as a result of sea levels rising a huge submarine slide called the Storegga caused a Tsunami which went round the whole of the North Atlantic. It made the land under the North Sea finally completely uninhabitable. Humans had to move to higher land.

The Storegga was an example of climate change having a huge impact on the human race. The company hopes to do the same.