Who Needs DAC?

DAC is Direct Air Capture of CO2. The short answer then is everyBODY, not just humans. Every year, humans are pumping nearly 50 Gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere, causing increasing warming of the climate. Direct Air Capture (DAC) refers to the technology that aims to capture CO2 directly from the air. 

Carbon Engineering is one of the companies that focus on this area.1 Founded in 2009, they have developed a system that can capture CO2 at industrial scale in millions of tons per year per facility. The technology works in a simple way: they use industrial scale fans to suck in air, then push the air through chemical processes. At the other end, cleaned air goes back to the atmosphere, and captured CO2 can either go to storage or other processes as raw materials. After building and running trial facilities for several years, they started building their first commercial deployments in 2018. Their goal is to achieve $150/ton CO2 capture. 2

Who would be interested in this technology and its products? Companies are beginning to have net-zero goals and they could work with Carbon Engineering to achieve them. For companies in countries operating under cap-and-trade schemes, companies could buy carbon credits from companies like Carbon Engineering. Many governments actively promote and incentivize carbon capture and sequestration. In the US, the Federal government offers carbon credits through its 45Q tax scheme, and several states also offer tax incentives. 3

The technology is still in its early stage of development, although it has achieved a cost level at which commercial deployment begins to become feasible. What is needed to make an impact is for the technology to scale, which in turn will drive down cost, and in addition efficient deployment models need to be developed as large scale deployment requires solving a number of issues at the same time: commercial model, land acquisition (for storage), incentives for buyers and sellers, and manufacturing technologies that use CO2 as raw materials (just like plastics is made from fossil fuels – carbon is the main ingredient). 

  1. https://carbonengineering.com/
  2. https://cleanenergysolutions.org/sites/default/files/documents/master_dacwebinar_21apr2020_final_0.pdf
  3. https://www.whitecase.com/publications/insight/carbon-capture/us-tax-credit-encourages-investment#:~:text=In%20its%20original%20form%2C%20Section,or%20natural%20gas%20extraction%20processes.

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