Two companies have begun designing what could become Europe’s largest direct air capture plant, capable of capturing up to one million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year and burying it deep in the North Sea floor.
Secluded climate pollution will be sold as carbon credits, reflecting the growing demand for decarbonization as a drive from countries and companies that develop net zero emissions plans that rely heavily, either directly or indirectly, on the use of trees, machinery, or other means to draw carbon dioxide from air.
Climate researchers say the world may need Billions of tons of carbon dioxide removed annually by mid-century to tackle the “residual emissions” (from things like aviation and agriculture) that we can’t afford to clean up affordably by then — and to get the climate out of the dangerously high levels of warming.
However, the crucial unanswered question is how much direct air capture will cost – and whether companies and countries will decide they can afford it.
The companies said the facility they proposed, Carbon Engineering and Storegga Geotechnologies, would likely be located in north-east Scotland, enabling it to draw on abundant renewable energy and direct the captured carbon dioxide to nearby sites offshore. The Internet is expected to be operational by 2026.
We can’t stop everything [source of] says Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering, based in British Columbia. “It is very difficult, very expensive and very troublesome. That is where decarbonization comes in. We are seeing a growing realization that it will be necessary.”
Reach $100 per ton
Oldham refuses to say how much the companies plan to charge for decarbonization, and says they don’t yet know what costs a ton they will achieve with the European plant.
But he is confident that it will eventually reach the target cost levels for direct air capture set in a 2018 analysis in Joule, led by carbon engineering founder and Harvard professor David Keith. He. She Put the range Priced between $94 and $232 a ton once the technology reaches commercial scale.
Reaching $100 per ton is essentially the economic viability point, with large US customers generally paying $65 to $110 for CO2 used for commercial purposes, according to little note. drive paper by Habib Azrabad and Live capture pioneer Klaus Lackner, both at Arizona State University’s Center for Negative Carbon Emissions. (The $100 does not include the separate but much smaller cost of carbon sequestration.)
At this point, direct air capture could become a reasonably cost-effective way to tackle 10% to 20% of emissions that would still be too difficult or expensive to eliminate—and might even compete with the cost of capturing CO2 before it leaves power plants and factories. , say the authors.
But the best guess is that the sector is nowhere near that level today. In 2019, Swiss direct-air capture company Climeworks announced that its costs It was about $500 to $600 a ton.
Azarabadi and Lackner found that what it takes to reach the $100 threshold is to build a complete set of plants.
Specifically, the study estimates – based on the “learning rates” of successful technologies, or how quickly costs fall as their manufacturing capacity grows – that the direct air capture industry would need to grow by a factor of just over 300 in to achieve $100 per ton costs. Getting there would require total federal subsidies of no more than $50 million to $2 billion, to cover the difference between actual costs and market prices for commodity carbon dioxide.
A key question, Lackner says, is whether their study applied the right learning curves from successful technologies such as solar power – where costs decreased by about 10 times with the scale increasing 1,000 times – or if direct air capture falls into a rare class of technologies where it is greater Learning does not reduce costs quickly.
“Investing a few hundred million in a lower cost purchase can tell us whether this is a good or bad assumption,” he said in an email.
The UK has put in place a plan to get rid of its zero emissions by 2050 which will require removing millions of tons of carbon dioxide to offset sources of emissions that are likely to continue to produce pollution. The government has began to present Millions of dollars to develop a variety of technology approaches to help it achieve those goals, including about $350,000 for the Engineering Carbon effort and Storegga, dubbed Dream Catcher Project.
The plant is likely to be located near the so-called oak project It was developed by the Scotland-based Storegga subsidiary Pale Blue Dot Energy. The plan is to produce hydrogen from natural gas extracted from the North Sea, while capturing emissions emitted in the process. The project will also reuse existing oil and gas infrastructure in the northeastern tip of Scotland to transport carbon dioxide, which will be injected to sites below the sea floor.
Oldham says the proposed direct air capture plant could benefit from the same carbon dioxide storage infrastructure.
The companies initially expect to build a facility capable of capturing 500,000 tons per year, but eventually could double in size given market demand. Even the low end would far exceed the largest European facility in progress, Climeworks’ Orca facility in Iceland, scheduled to remove 4,000 tons annually. Just a bunch of others small plants They are built around the world.
The projected capacity of the Scotland plant is essentially the same as that of the other full-size Carbon Engineering facility, planned in Texas. It will also start as a factory with a capacity of half a million tons per year with the potential to reach one million tons. Construction on this plant is likely to begin early next year, with commissioning expected in 2024.
However, much of the carbon dioxide captured at that facility will be used in what is known as enhanced oil recovery: It is injected underground to release additional oil from oil wells in the Permian Basin. If this process is done carefully, it could potentially produce “carbon neutral” fuels, which at least add no more emissions to the atmosphere than they are removed.
Oldham agrees that building more plants will be the key to driving costs, noting that carbon engineering will see a significant decline from its first plant to its second. He adds that how steep the bends will be from there will depend on how quickly governments adopt carbon prices or other climate policies that create more demand for decarbonization. Such policies essentially force “hard to solve” sectors like aviation, cement and steel to start paying someone to clean up the pollution.