Tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in Oman, an incredibly beautiful country blessed with mountains, oceans, and deserts. I spent weekends going on treks in the mountains, scuba diving, or just spending time at the beach. But as I got older, I started to recognize the impact of environmental damage on the nature that I loved. I saw coral bleaching and algal blooms that killed fish and kept us off the beaches for weeks at a time. I saw immense amounts of plastic waste flowing into the oceans. I saw rising temperatures and increasing numbers of cyclones. Oman’s dominant industry is oil and gas, and I grew up next to an oil refinery. Witnessing the environmental damage and the contrast between our beautiful nature and our main industry firsthand got me interested in how we can build a balance with nature.

After college, I worked at a fund investing in renewables and then worked in consulting between Dubai and Paris where I helped utilities and infrastructure funds on their energy transition. I got to experience the evolution of Europe towards clean energy.

After a few years, I decided it was time for a change and started applying to business schools. But then a friend approached me with an article in the New York Times about a rock found in Oman that could absorb CO2. And that was the beginning of 44.01.

Tell us about 44.01 and what inspired you to co-found it.

The special rocks in Oman are called peridotites and they naturally react with CO2 and water to mineralize CO2 and essentially turn it into rock. Usually, they are found deep under the ocean, but in Oman and a few other places in the world they have been pushed up to the surface. The friend who sent me that article was setting up a founding team to see if we could speed that process up. This team included the two professors, Juerg Matter and Peter Kelemen, who had first discovered peridotite’s capacity to mineralise CO2. I joined him as his co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer.

That was two years ago and we’re now an established carbon removal company. We take CO2 captured either from the air or from the smokestacks of industrial processes and eliminate it by mineralizing it in peridotite. To do that, we combine CO2 with water and then inject it into seams of peridotite deep underground. There, we can control variables like pressure, temperature, and pH level, to speed up the natural mineralization reaction. With our technology, CO2 is turned to rock in under a year and can never escape back into the atmosphere.

What about this technology excites you?

The advantage of our process is that it's truly permanent and it's completely safe: the CO2 cannot be converted back into gaseous form or escape once it’s been turned into rock. Instead, it’s eliminated from the carbon cycle forever.

This sets us apart because we don't need to monitor CO2 plumes for decades after a site is closed off, which is beneficial to the people living around our sites, who can be assured that the CO2 is gone and won't contaminate their water or crops, and for our project costs. At the moment, we’re seeing conventional carbon storage projects that are required to monitor for 50 years or so, but who is going to be responsible for that gas plume in 100, 1,000, or 10,000 years? I don’t want future generations to feel that we kicked the problem down to them, I’d rather solve it now.

One of the other unique things about 44.01, aside from the technology, is that we are working in a part of the world that has been known for oil and gas. It's a great opportunity for us to help our region make the energy transition and to offer jobs and commercial opportunities to people and businesses that are currently dependent on the energy sector.

What’s next for 44.01? How do you see it scaling?

There is peridotite all over the world, so in theory we could scale up internationally, from the USA to Japan and Australia. The beauty of peridotite is that it has a very high olivine content, which means it can soak up more carbon than any comparable rock.

That’s the theory, but we need to confirm how it works in practice. We're currently at pilot stage and we're testing things like how the depth of our wells and the rate of CO2 injection affect the mineralization process. We’re also working to refine and improve our technology, for example by trialing using seawater at our site in the UAE. Our next two projects – in the UAE and in Oman – will tell us a lot. Next year, we want to try to enter the USA. There are significant peridotite deposits in California, Oregon and Washington so we’re looking for potential partners to help us set up a site on the west coast.

44.01 won the 2022 Earthshot prize in the “Fix Our Climate” category, a global environmental award founded by The Royal Foundation and Prince William that showcases and supports groundbreaking climate solutions. What does winning this award mean to you? What opportunities do you hope it will bring?

The resources that the Earthshot Foundation have provided have been invaluable. They bring mentorship, support, and a huge platform to promote our technology. 44.01 was the first carbon removal technology to win an Earthshot Prize, which has brought what we do to a much broader audience. This has been great for us, great for the industry, and great for the communities we work with to get a better understanding of what we're trying to do and how we're trying to help. At 44.01, we want to scale our solutions sustainably and make sure that the communities we work with understand what we're doing and how it's going to benefit them, not harm them.

There is, of course, the additional bonus of the prize money. We're going to build a center of excellence in Oman, which will be a research and educational facility and be a showcase for visitors and educational institutions.

Do you have any advice for students interested in pursuing a career in climate?

The climate industry is extremely nascent, and it can be intimidating because it’s so new and can seem so technical. But I don't come from a climate background, I’m not a geologist or a scientist, and I found a way because ultimately every company is going to become a climate company. Every company is going to have to figure out a way to transition and fit into the new world that's coming. There's opportunity everywhere. Don’t be afraid to give it a shot. Every company is going to have to contribute to climate solutions.