President Joe Biden’s Department of Energy will direct up to $1.2 billion to help pay for two direct air carbon-emissions capture facilities in Texas and Louisiana, which will essentially vacuum existing Earth-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
It’s the first time for direct air capture (DAC) projects at a commercial scale in the U.S., and follows a breakthrough in both the technology and the method to finance these types of projects in Europe earlier this year.
From the archives (April 2022): Carbon capture, nuclear and hydrogen feature in most net-zero emissions plans and need greater investment
The White House on Friday called the announcement the world’s largest investment in engineered carbon removal in history, and said each hub of this type would eventually remove more than 250 times more carbon dioxide than the largest direct air capture facility currently operating, mostly as prototypes.
In January, Swiss-based Climeworks AG, a known leader in direct carbon capture, fired up its commercial-scale machine and used a third party to verify its process. Its backers, essentially customers who want to offset their own emissions, include Microsoft
and Swiss Re
Microsoft and others paid a premium to buy carbon credits generated by Climeworks, allowing the purchasers to effectively offset their own emissions, and generate the cash the Swiss climate-tech company needs to build more units.
From the archives (January 2023): Climate startup Climeworks captures carbon straight from the air in industry first
Climeworks and the just-announced U.S. plants pull carbon dioxide from the air and bury it deep underground, where it lives forever or is recycled as its own innovative energy source. Efforts to use stored carbon dioxide for energy remain years away from viability at a large scale.
Climeworks is working with the Calcasieu Parish, La., facility known as Project Cypress, one of the two projects selected to receive funding.
The other U.S. project, the South Texas DAC Hub in Kleberg County, Texas, will be operated by PointFive, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum
and its partners, Carbon Engineering Ltd. and Worley. That project includes a saline geologic carbon-dioxide storage site. Siemens Energy
made the hub’s compressors.
Together, these U.S. projects are expected to remove more than 2 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions each year from the atmosphere — an amount equivalent to the annual emissions from roughly 445,000 gasoline-powered cars. The Biden team estimated the spending can create 4,800 jobs in Texas and Louisiana, and said workers in the traditional energy industry would be helped to find carbon-capture positions.
“ ‘…[N]early every climate model makes clear [carbon capture] is essential to achieving a net-zero global economy by 2050.’ ”
Carbon capture and storage can also include technology that builds a cap — some consider it a silo — at the site of natural-gas
harvesting or other traditional-energy combustion, grabbing and storing the carbon dioxide before it flows into the atmosphere.
The approaches have drawn criticism from some advocacy groups that argue they don’t do enough to lessen outright demand for fossil fuels
which advocates and others hope to replace with solar, wind
hydrogen, nuclear and other low- or no-emissions alternatives.
It’s estimated that traditional energy accounts for more than three-quarters of total Earth-warming greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally. That warming, scientists say, is partly responsible for the wildfires and extreme heat that have grabbed headlines this summer in particular, positioning July as the hottest month on record.
Others say it will take both technology and a curb in demand to slow climate change and allow mature economies reliant on energy to transition to new sources.
The federal funding in the U.S. aims to kickstart a nationwide network of large-scale carbon-removal sites to address legacy carbon-dioxide pollution and complement rapid emissions reductions, the Department of Energy said.
“Cutting back on our carbon emissions alone won’t reverse the growing impacts of climate change; we also need to remove the CO2 that we’ve already put in the atmosphere — which nearly every climate model makes clear is essential to achieving a net-zero global economy by 2050,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.