Women Leaders


Beatriz Molero Sanchez

On May 11, 2020, carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere reached 415.26 parts per million for the first time in human history. The last time CO2 levels were this high was probably 2.5 to 5 million years ago when temperatures were 2 to 3˚C higher than today- but there weren’t 7.7 billion (human) inhabitants.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that we need to limit global warming to 1.5˚C to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change. This cannot be achieved, however, without removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Besides capturing carbon from fossil fuel plants directly, there are a variety of ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. The problem is that some of these strategies are still relatively expensive. Finding new commercial uses for the captured CO2 is key to lower the costs of these technologies and scaling them up.

Captured CO2 has long been injected into depleted oil fields to enhance oil recovery. It has also been pumped into greenhouses to boost plant growth. But today, many companies and researchers are developing new uses and products for captured CO2, such as varieties of concrete, chemicals, and fuels. McKinsey & Company estimates that by 2030, CO2-based products could be worth between $800 billion and $1 trillion.

The use of CO2 for producing fuel, enriching concrete, and generating power alone could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a billion metric tons yearly. The Global Carbon Initiative projects that by 2030 the overall CO2-based product industry could, with the proper incentives, utilize seven billion metric tons of CO2 each year—about 15 percent of our current global emissions.

To discuss these developments, we spoke to Dr. Beatriz Molero Sanchez, co-founder, CTO & Director, SeeO2 Energy Inc. an innovative startup that is constructing high-temperature electrolyzers capable of converting carbon dioxide and/or water into valuable fuels. Her answers can help our readers understand the complexity of problems solved by her team, and the leadership skills required to deliver innovative solutions in such a complex/high tech market.

“ I have always been a strong advocate for Women in Science and Science through outreach events where I have volunteered for many years. A few examples include University of Calgary Science outreach events such as the Spooky Science event in Market Mall and the Hogwarts School of Chemistry. ”

Aspioneer (A): The complexity of capturing and converting CO2 is not well understood by many people. Can you shed some light on the challenges involved?
Dr. Beatriz Molero Sanchez (BMS): CO2 conversion is a broad field; CO2 can be used as a reactant or a building block in many different ways. In that sense, there is a wide variety of end products that could be CO2-based, from concrete or sustainable chemical feedstocks to soap or green plastics.

For instance, CO2 can be dissociated into carbon monoxide and oxygen or it can be transformed into other chemical species to create different products. However, CO2 is quite a stable molecule-meaning that it will not be dissociated unless a substantial amount of energy is added. Overcoming this means finding products that don’t need this energy boost or finding less energy-intensive ways to dissociate CO2.

A: How are you and your team at SeeO2 Energy tackling this problem?
BMS: SeeO2 Energy develops an economically viable process to convert waste CO2 to industrial feedstocks and value-added fuels. Unlike other solutions, we reduce the electrical input need by 30% and our technology can tolerate impurities. When coupled with low-carbon electricity, our net carbon-negative emission process reduces at least 4x emissions compared to the incumbent stream methane reforming technology currently used/used to produce these feedstocks. Also, our process is modular and scalable with minimal utility requirements, making it well suited for remote or on-site applications. The technology is well suited for the “on-demand” production of industrial gases, eliminating the need for large storage and transportation of these gases. This process will be the underpinning technology for the production of renewable industrial feedstocks (carbon monoxide, hydrogen, oxygen, and syngas), a new standard for sustainable chemical processes.

A: What are the benefits of introducing your technology to the market?
BMS: The world is facing a global crisis with the exponential growth in CO2 emissions. SeeO2 recycles CO2 emissions to foster sustainable production of Industrial chemical feedstocks and fuels in a net negative carbon process. The market for carbon monoxide, hydrogen, oxygen, and syngas is USD 34B and expected to reach USD 43B by 2023. Our solution applies to a variety of industries, including manufacturing, automotive, chemical and energy, metals, plastics, and more.

Our solution offers a range of solutions for our customers:
• Reduce carbon footprint,
• Monetize CO2 emissions,
• On-site production of reliable and clean industrial gases and feedstocks,
• Store surplus electricity as fuels and chemicals.

A: What is the current status of your technology?
BMS: We have fully developed a benchtop prototype and we are ready for field demonstrations. SeeO2 Energy has secured three committed field demonstration projects with industrial partners in Europe and North America. SeeO2 has been awarded the Eureka label by the EUREKA Secretariat for our field demonstration project with ArcelorMittal starting in Q2 2021.


A: People have been trying to efficiently convert CO2 into useful products for decades. What made you choose to tackle such a difficult problem?
BMS: Muses!... I have always been attracted to hard problems. Even as a child I was attracted to complexity. This manifested in the form of my interest in music. My interest in music was what led to an interest in science. Music is amazingly complex and yields particularly well to mathematical analysis. Even today, before an important event I put on my headphones and listen to some tunes. It helps me focus on the task at hand and gives me energy . Does that answer your question? (laughs!)

A: (Smiling!) Somewhat... Bringing a promising but exotic solution to the energy market is always difficult. What kind of personal leadership is required to be successful in such an environment?
BMS: The most important thing to remember is that change takes time. Patience is paramount. People can be conservative and resistant to change. Therefore, outreach is very important. At SeeO2 scientific outreach has been a big part of efforts in bringing systemic change. For me, this has taken many forms from speaking at international conferences and, events to conducting fun little spooky science experiments with the local community (Laughs!).

“A business without ethics and values is meaningless in its achievement. It might make you rich or powerful but it won’t make you feel happy about yourself”

A: Managing so many varied tasks is always a challenging exercise for any leader. How do you balance the need for leadership with the subordinate initiative?
BMS: Delegation is indeed crucial if you want to succeed as a leader. Successful delegation is however another matter altogether. It all comes down to empathy, doesn’t it? If you don’t understand yourself and your team properly you will always face issues.

For me, leadership means mentoring members in the right direction. Keeping an open mind and admitting when you are wrong is an essential quality.

A: How do you encourage other women who wish to make a mark in their chosen field of study?
BMS: Constant mentoring is possibly the best solution. I have been lucky to have gotten great male and female mentors who guided me, helped me grow, and understand the essence of leadership.

I have always been a strong advocate for Women in Science and Science through outreach events where I have volunteered for many years. A few examples include University of Calgary Science outreach events such as the Spooky Science event in Market Mall and the Hogwarts School of Chemistry.

I was one of 12 female speakers selected to speak in the Calgary Zoo at Soapbox Science 2018, an international public outreach platform for promoting women scientists. As an entrepreneur, I am part of the Canadian Women’s Network (CWN). Also, I was part of the mentoring team for Operation Minerva at the University of Calgary in 2019. In 2020, I joined the UCalgary Hunter hub’s initiative with Engineering undergraduate students mentoring team for technology commercialization.

Hands-on, is the word for me.

A: Leaders are often focused on change, whether it is social or material. Is there something social or material you want to achieve in the future as yourself?
BMS: A business without ethics and values is meaningless in its achievement. It might make you rich or powerful but it won’t make you feel happy about yourself. For me leading SeeO2 is to lead with ethics and empathy. I believe what we are doing at SeeO2 Energy is important. Our all-in-one approach can unlock not only opportunities but also create a real difference. It is a difficult problem, but an essential problem to solve. To me, it is crucial people commit to the environment.

A: Dr. Molero, thank you very much.

Innovation is a word that should not be used lightly. It certainly applies to SeeO2 and their patented CO2 conversion technology. What lies ahead of Dr. Molero and her team are a set of incredibly exciting prospects that could change the energy industry forever. As they look to expand and explore new territory in the coming days, we can’t wait to see what they do next. Stay tuned!