The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled a significant boost to carbon removal efforts by awarding federal grants totaling over $1 billion to projects in Texas and Louisiana. These initiatives, designed to remove more than 2 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually, mark a crucial milestone in scaling up direct air capture (DAC) technology.

The chosen projects include Project Cypress in Louisiana, led by Battelle in partnership with Climeworks Corporation and Heirloom Carbon Technologies. Additionally, the South Texas DAC Hub in Kleberg County, Texas, proposed by Occidental Petroleum’s subsidiary 1PointFive, along with Carbon Engineering Ltd and Worley, has been selected. To facilitate broader adoption of DAC, the DOE has introduced various initiatives aimed at reducing technology costs to under $100 per net metric ton of CO2-equivalent within the next decade.

Addressing the pressing issue of climate change and the urgency to cut emissions, carbon removal has gained prominence. UN scientists emphasize the necessity of extracting billions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year to align with the global objective of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. DAC technology, when deployed on a larger scale, holds the potential to help the U.S. achieve its target of neutralizing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as highlighted by the DOE.

However, for DAC to be effective on a global scale, its costs must decrease rapidly. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm emphasized that widespread deployment of this technology could significantly contribute to achieving net-zero emissions goals while simultaneously expanding clean energy initiatives.

The newly announced grants, subject to negotiations before distribution, represent the first investments by the Energy Department following the allocation of $3.5 billion from Congress for regional DAC hubs as part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Vicki Hollub, CEO of Occidental Petroleum, highlighted the potential of the South Texas DAC Hub to remove up to 30 million tons of CO2 annually once fully operational, underscoring the project’s readiness and technical maturity.

DAC involves employing chemical reactions to capture CO2 from the air, which can subsequently be stored underground or utilized in products like concrete or aviation fuel. Climeworks plans to construct its hub in multiple stages, aiming for a capacity of 1 million tons per year by 2030.

Both CEOs of the selected projects expressed optimism regarding their potential impact. Jan Wurzbacher, Climeworks director and founder, anticipates the hub’s first capture by 2025/2026, while Heirloom CEO Shashank Samala envisions reaching a capacity of 1 million tons per year by 2029 or 2030.

The promising progress in DAC technology has witnessed exponential growth in capturing larger quantities of CO2. Environmental activists acknowledge the necessity of carbon removal for achieving climate targets but express concerns that development might provide cover for fossil fuel production, especially in disadvantaged communities.

The announcement of these grants arrives just ahead of the COP28 climate summit, where discussions on carbon removal technologies are anticipated to take center stage. The United States is emerging as a leader in carbon removal, underlining its commitment to this innovative technology.

By Impact Lab