Carbon capture company working on technology improvements in Squamish.
A Squamish-based company determined to reduce the global carbon footprint by sucking CO2 from the air has announced plans to build a second project.
Carbon Engineering and its US partner had just begun construction of the world’s largest commercial direct air capture project in Texas before announcing this second project, which could capture 30 million tons of CO2 per year.
The local company – one of the leading innovators in direct air capture – is already developing a half-million-ton Texas DAC plant in the Permian Basin, in partnership with technology subsidiary 1PointFive of Occidental (NYSE: OXY), an American oil producing company.
Carbon Engineering announced on October 31 that it had been hired by 1PointFive to begin initial planning and engineering for DAC for a second site in Kleberg County, Texas that will be designed to be scalable.
The scale of the new project
“The site is expected to provide access for the construction of multiple DAC facilities that would collectively remove up to 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year for dedicated sequestration,” Carbon Engineering said in a press release.
The first DAC site in Texas is expected to be commissioned in 2024. With an initial volume of 0.5 million tons of CO2 captured per year – with a second phase or “train” taking it to 1 million tons – it will be the largest DAC factory in the world.
“This first facility, which is only half a megaton, will be a hundred times larger than anything in the world,” said Daniel Friedmann, former CEO of Macdonald, Dettwiler & Associates and incoming CEO of Carbon Engineering. BIV News.
“And then we’re now talking about doing 30 megatons, which will be 60 times bigger than that.”
“When it begins operations in 2024, DAC 1 is expected to become the largest Direct Air Capture (DAC) facility in the world,” the International Energy Agency (IEA) recently noted about the launch. 1PointFive factory. “This landmark project is an important development that can help demonstrate the valuable and unique role of DAC in achieving net zero goals.”
The CO2 captured on the first site can be used either for enhanced oil recovery or for pure sequestration. The second site announced this week would be for pure geological sequestration.
Due to the energy inputs needed to extract CO2 from the air, DAC is much more expensive than point-source capture (i.e. capturing CO2 directly from smokestacks). But while point source capture makes industries carbon neutral, DAC is considered carbon negative because it would remove CO2 that is already in the atmosphere.
The economy of direct air capture
Until very recently, DAC economics with pure sequestration was extremely difficult. Unless some value can be found for the captured CO2 – using it for enhanced oil recovery, for example – the economy just hasn’t worked out for DAC.
But thanks to the new Inflation Reduction Act from US President Joe Biden’s administration in the US, CAD with pure sequestration may suddenly have a value proposition.
According to the World Resources Institute, the cost of DAC is $250 to $600 per ton of CO2 captured, although projections indicate that costs could drop to $150 to $200 per ton over the next five to 10 years.
The United States already had the 45Q tax credit, which offered significant subsidies for investments in carbon capture and storage.
Once in effect, the Inflation Reduction Act increased the 45Q tax credit for DAC from $50 per ton to $180 per ton for pure sequestration, and from $35 per ton to $130 per ton for the CO2 captured by the DAC used in the improved oil. recovery.
1PointFive’s business model for its DAC projects also includes selling carbon offsets. Airbus, for example, purchased 400,000 tons of carbon offset credits from 1PointFive for its first DAC project in Texas.
“The government made the math work,” Friedmann said. “There is no doubt that US legislation is miles ahead of anything in the world, including Canada, and that we will all build our factories in the United States, given this legislation.
As for why Texas is poised to become a major player in the DAC space, the Lone Star State has a few distinct advantages. For one thing, it has huge geological storage capabilities, both in Texas and nearby Louisiana, thanks to all the old depleted oil and gas wells there.
“When looking for the best location, the first thing you need is to have a place to store a lot of carbon,” Friedmann said. “Because we’re not trying to build 1 megaton – we’re trying to build 30 megatons – and we’re going to run these plants for 20, 30 years, so we have to have a lot of space (storage).
“The second criterion is that we must run our machines with renewable electricity. Otherwise, we are not moving forward. »
The DAC requires a fair amount of electricity, and Texas has a substantial amount of wind power. About 20% of its power comes from the wind. Texas also derives about 11% of its firm electricity from zero-emission nuclear power.
1PointFive has ambitious plans to build 70 DAC installations worldwide by 2035.
Not yet economical in Canada
Friedmann told Chief Squamish that while the company may receive US$180 a tonne for pure sequestration south of the border, that is not the case in Canada.
“The key thing about the US number is that the government is giving it to the people who will take the carbon out of the air,” he said.
“In Canada, we don’t have such a program.
Testing continues in Squamish
Meanwhile, Friedmann said the company is testing a new material in Squamish that could improve catching efficiency by 20%.
Friedmann said the technology works by running a film of chemicals onto PCB plastic sheets. When carbon dioxide comes into contact with the film, it is absorbed.
“The trick is, you know, how can you get the most chemicals in contact with the air in the least amount of space?” he said.
If you run the chemical film over a smooth surface like a window, you get some effectiveness, he said. But, for example, if you make it as a complex honeycomb, then there is a lot more surface in contact with the air.
“We’re constantly trying to come up with different patterns to put on our plastic PCB sheet pieces, so there’s more and more potential for contact with air,” Friedmann said. ” It really is that simple. It’s complicated to understand. »
He said that if all goes as planned, the new hardware will be present at the two sites under construction.
Pay them a visit
Friedmann also said locals should feel free to venture out of Carbon Engineering’s oceanside test site.
Although they cannot access the inside of the facility, as it requires specialized safety equipment, they can get a good view of the facility without having to make an appointment.
Friedmann said the company has put up interpretive signs for residents who stroll near the company site.
This way, they can learn more about each of the facilities and what goes on there.
“People can really see what’s going on there from outside the fence. They don’t need to book anything. They can just go whenever they want,” Friedmann said.
Despite the company’s plans in the United States, he still called Squamish the “center of the universe for carbon engineering”.
“Squamish is where we go from an idea on paper or computer to the Innovation Center, which is representative of the scale of commercial factories…So that’s where it all happens for the carbon engineering. It’s right in Squamish.