The Carbon Engineering Direct Air Capture (DAC) carbon capture plant with the Squamish Chief mountain in the background.

US grants $1.2bn for tech to vacuum carbon out of air

Image credit: Shutterstock

The US Energy Department has launched ‘the world’s largest investment in engineered carbon removal in history’.

The US government has announced it will invest $1.2bn (£945m) in two direct air capture (DAC) projects to pull carbon dioxide from the air. 

The two facilities will be located in Texas and Louisiana, and each aims to eliminate 1 million tons of carbon dioxide per year – the equivalent in total to the annual emissions of 445,000 gas-powered cars.

The Texas facility will be built by oil company Occidental Petroleum, while the Louisiana hub is being driven by applied science group Battelle in cooperation with technology developers Climeworks and Heirloom.

“Cutting back on our carbon emissions alone won’t reverse the growing impacts of climate change,” energy secretary Jennifer Granholm said in the statement. “We need to remove the CO2 we’ve already put in the atmosphere.”

Granholm described the DAC technology as “giant vacuums that can suck decades of old carbon pollution straight out of the sky”, which can then be trapped underground or used in things such as building materials, agricultural products or fuel.

The two projects are called South Texas DAC Hub and Project Cyprus, respectively, and they are expected to create 4,800 jobs, as well as “position the US as the location to demonstrate the commercial viability of direct-air capture and climate-relevant scale”.

Although the International Energy Agency has said the technology will play “an important and growing role” in achieving net zero goals, it has not yet been tested at scale, with only 30 DAC having been commissioned globally. Out of these, only six are under construction.

In the UK alone, the carbon capture and storage sector could be worth £100bn to the economy by 2050, according to an Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) report. The government’s official Net Zero Strategy estimates that around 50 million tonnes a year will need to be captured by 2035.

In May, 12 companies received 20 licences in the UK’s first-ever carbon dioxide storage licensing round. The licences cover an area of around 12,000 square kilometres in size, located near Aberdeen, Teesside, Liverpool and Lincolnshire.

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