What it takes to achieve affordable carbon removal


The two companies have already begun designing what may become Europe’s largest direct air capture plant, capable of capturing up to 1 million tons of carbon dioxide each year and burying it deep in the North Sea bottom.

The isolated climate pollution will be sold as carbon credits, reflecting that as the country and enterprises formulate net zero emission plans, these plans directly or indirectly rely heavily on the use of trees, machines or other means to drive carbon emissions, and people’s demand for carbon removal continues increase. Exhaust carbon dioxide from the air.

Climate researchers say the world may need Remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide every year By the middle of this century, to solve the problem of “residual emissions” that we cannot afford by then — from aviation and agriculture, among other fields — and to pull the climate back from extremely dangerous warming levels.

However, the key and unresolved question is how much direct air capture costs—and whether companies and countries will determine that they can afford it.

The two companies stated that the proposed facility by Carbon Engineering and Storegga Geotechnologies may be located in northeastern Scotland, enabling it to utilize abundant renewable energy and transport the captured carbon dioxide to nearby offshore locations. It is expected to go live in 2026.

“We can’t stop every [source of] Emissions,” said Steve Oldham, CEO of British Columbia Carbon Engineering. “It’s too difficult, too expensive, and too destructive. “This is where carbon removal comes in. We are seeing more and more people realize that it will be essential.”

Reached $100 per ton

Oldham declined to say how much they plan to charge for carbon removal, saying that they do not yet know the cost per ton they will achieve at the European plant.

But he said the company is confident that they will eventually reach the level of direct air capture costs determined in the 2018 Joule analysis, which was led by the founder of Carbon Engineering and Harvard University professor David Put the scope Once the technology reaches commercial scale, the price will be between US$94 and US$232 per ton.

Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering

Courtesy: Carbon Engineering

According to a lesser-known person, reaching US$100 per ton is basically the key to economic viability, as major US customers usually pay US$65 to US$110 for carbon dioxide used for commercial purposes. May paper Habib Azarabad and Klaus Lackner, pioneer of direct air capture, Both in the Negative Carbon Emission Center of Arizona State University. (The $100 does not include separate but fairly small carbon storage costs.)

By then, direct air capture may become a reasonable and cost-effective way to solve 10% to 20% of emissions. These emissions are still difficult to eliminate or costly, and may even compete with the capture of carbon dioxide before it leaves electricity. Plants and factories, the author Say.

But the best guess is that the industry is far from reaching that level. In 2019, Swiss direct air capture company Climeworks announced its cost About 500 to 600 US dollars per ton.

Azarabadi and Lackner discovered that to reach the $100 threshold, a lot of factories would need to be built.

Specifically, based on the “learning rate” of successful technologies—or the rate at which costs decrease as manufacturing capabilities increase—the study estimates that the direct air capture industry needs to grow more than 300 times to achieve a cost of $100 per ton. To get there may only need US$50 million to US$2 billion in federal subsidies to make up for the difference between the actual cost of commodity carbon dioxide and the market price.

Lackner said the key question is whether their research applies the correct learning curve for successful technologies such as solar energy — with the scale increasing by 1,000 times, the cost has dropped by about 10 times — or whether direct air capture falls into the more rare category of technology learning Will not reduce costs quickly.

Lackner said in an email: “Investing hundreds of millions to reduce costs can be judged as a good or bad assumption.”

Dream Catcher

The United Kingdom has formulated a plan to achieve zero emissions by 2050, which will require the removal of millions of tons of carbon dioxide to balance emissions that may still be polluting at that time.The government has Start offering Millions of dollars have been used to develop various technological methods to help it achieve these goals, including approximately US$350,000 for carbon engineering and the Storegga project, known as Dreamcatcher Project.

The factory may be located near the so-called Acorn Project, Developed by Pale Blue Dot Energy, a subsidiary of Storegga headquartered in Scotland. The plan is to produce hydrogen from natural gas extracted from the North Sea while capturing the emissions released during the process. The project will also re-use the existing oil and gas infrastructure at the northeastern tip of Scotland to transport carbon dioxide and inject it into locations below the seabed.

Oldham said the proposed direct air capture plant could use the same infrastructure to store carbon dioxide.

The two companies initially hoped to build a facility capable of capturing 500,000 tons per year, but may eventually double the scale based on market demand. Even low-end equipment will far exceed the largest European facility under construction. Climeworks’ Orca plant in Iceland, It is planned to remove 4,000 tons per year.Only a few others Small factory Has been built all over the world.

The expected capacity of the Scottish plant is basically the same as other full-size plants planned by Carbon Engineering for Texas. It will also start from a factory with an annual output of 500,000 tons, and may reach 1 million tons. The plant may start construction early next year and is expected to start operations in 2024.

However, most of the carbon dioxide captured by this facility will be used for so-called enhanced oil recovery. Inject into the ground to release additional oil Oil wells from the Permian Basin. If done carefully, the process may produce “carbon neutral” fuel, at least not adding more emissions to the atmosphere than it removes.

Oldham agreed that building more factories will be the key to reducing the cost of the industry, and pointed out that the cost of carbon engineering from the first factory to the second factory will be significantly reduced. The extent to which the curve bends from there will depend on the speed at which the government formulates carbon prices or other climate policies, which will fundamentally force the “difficult to solve” sectors such as aviation, cement and steel to start, thereby creating more demand for carbon removal. He added that people spend money to clean up the pollution.


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