Carbonising of biomass and plastics in an exciting and promising phase - Paul O'Connor, founder of Yerrawa

“Carbonising of biomass and plastics in an exciting and promising phase.”

Paul O'Connor, founder of Yerrawa 

Yerrawa, derived from the Aboriginal word for boomerang, develops a unique concept for a cost-effective catalytic carbonisation process, called Carbon Plus. It converts organic waste and plastics into solid carbon and hydrogen, thus contributing to the transition toward a circular no-waste economy. Paul O'Connor, founder, innovator and entrepreneur had been running around with the idea for this new catalytic technology for some time. But as so often: money to actually start a project was lacking. 


Embarking on the next phase

In 2021, O'Connor got in touch with CarbonFix and, with their financial support, started Yerrawa. Paul: "Thanks to CarbonFix's phased grant, we managed to further develop the idea of Carbon Plus. It helped us over the threshold. And yes, they did ask a lot of questions. In my experience, questions always make you better. Our concept also developed further because of these questions. With a creative club of mostly chemical engineers we are now embarking on a next phase; we are accelerating and will soon demonstrate how carbonisation of biomass and plastics works. In 2025/2026 we'll aim for the major investors.” 


Carbon Plus: double benefits

O'Connor has quite a track record of success in the field of renewable energy. "There are so many more valuable innovative initiatives that should be developed further. By 2050, we need to be CO2 neutral. Will we achieve that? Carbon Plus is a very effective solution with double benefits: we take the Carbon out of the air and use it for new, valuable applications, such as building bricks or carbon-framed bicycles."


Capital for the initial phase

“To combat warming, with all its consequences, we need a whole range of inventive solutions. Unfortunately, especially in the Netherlands, investors are only interested in the big projects. They think too much in terms of risks rather than opportunities and responsibility. While it is precisely in the first stages of development that initial capital is badly needed." 


Mastering the subject

O'Connor already worked as a chemical engineer at Shell at the end of the last century on catalysts for cleaner fuels: "Back then, Shell was a company with consistent scenario planning. The management consisted of engineers; they mastered the subject matter. From the moment the managers and consultants came, it was all about cost and profit. At Boeing, you see the same thing happening. The quality problems there don't come out of the blue. And yes, we need the Exxons and Shells, but they have to take responsibility for the environment and sustainable technology."


Rational analysis and mystical intuition

Creativity is an essential quality for science in O'Connor's opinion: "A professor once shocked me when he asked me what my intuition said. As a scientist I didn't have any, I thought. I now know that good ideas are mostly based on rational analysis and mystical intuition. It’s important to trust your intuition. Innovating and putting the world first instead of profit maximisation. Democratising technology instead of sealing up good ideas with patents and selling them as expensively as possible. In other words: protect, but not shield."


We are billion-year-old carbon

Yerrawa continues to be part of the CarbonFix community. O’Connor: “Great to see our network and theirs merge. We love to share our insights and experiences. CarbonFix is looking for new promising projects attributing to emission reduction. Helping them evolve their journey, watching them grow. ‘We are stardust, billion-year-old carbon’, sang Joni Mitchel in Woodstock. If we want to add a billion years to it, we need all the innovative creativity there is. So innovative minds, please sign in!”

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