By Carlos Anchondo, Corbin Hiar
E&E News, Jan. 30, 2022
At least four groups have expressed interest in a new federal program that aims to fight global warming with the use of machines that can suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Two startups and two universities have signaled that they plan to apply for a piece of $3.5 billion in federal funding that’s available to help build four direct air capture (DAC) facilities in the United States.
Though the technology is still nascent, scientists say direct air capture could become a powerful weapon against climate change. It works by removing carbon dioxide — the main driver of global warming — from the air.
The interested parties include CarbonCapture Inc. of California and Sustaera Inc. of North Carolina, as well as the University of Houston and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Of the groups contacted by E&E News, only CarbonCapture suggested it’s looking to spearhead a bid.
“We certainly will be submitting at least one letter of intent and [will be] probably part of multiple hubs,” Patricia Loria, CarbonCapture’s head of business development, said during a webinar last week.
Last year, the company announced plans to develop a massive DAC facility in Wyoming (Energywire, Sept. 9, 2022). Dubbed Project Bison, the plant is designed to capture up to 5 million tons of CO2 annually.
Other organizations involved with direct air capture — including tech giant Microsoft Corp. and Stanford University — said they are still weighing their options. One of the fledgling industry’s biggest players, Switzerland-based Climeworks AG, declined to comment on its potential DAC hub plans.
The deadline to submit letters of intent to DOE is Feb. 17. Full applications for the program are due by mid-March.
Jump-starting an industry
The new Energy Department program, which aims to create four regional DAC hubs, was authorized by the bipartisan infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed into law at the end of 2021.
The broader goal of the five-year initiative is to jump-start the DAC industry, which uses fans, filters and pipes to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it underground or in long-lasting products such as cement.
DAC is the most commercially advanced long-term carbon removal technology. But there are currently only 18 facilities operating worldwide, which are collectively capable of capturing less than 10,000 metric tons of CO2 per year, according to an April 2022 report from the International Energy Agency.
To keep global average temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the world needs to not only rapidly slash emissions but also scale up carbon removal.).
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