Squamish, BC-based cleantech startup, Carbon Engineering is expanding the capacity of the design for its first commercial Direct Air Capture (DAC) plant. The plant is currently being designed with a goal of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and permanently storing it underground.
The startup said the expansion will allow its clients to remove more atmospheric CO₂.
Carbon Engineering’s plant will now be able to remove one million tons of CO₂ from the atmosphere each year, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 250,000 average cars. This is double the previously expected capacity of 500,000 tons of CO₂ per year. The planned facility is being engineered in partnership with Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Corporation.
“Over the last few years we have observed a growing consensus in the science and policy sectors that both aggressive emissions reductions and large-scale removal of CO₂ from the atmosphere is essential,” said Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering. “Corporations are publicly committing to reduce their environmental footprints, and many are finding that while some of their emissions can be directly cut or reduced from within their activities, others are far more challenging. For these hard-to-eliminate emissions, the ability to remove an equivalent quantity of CO₂ directly from the atmosphere is a powerful new tool to include in their sustainability toolkits.”
The startup said this expansion will allow its clients to permanently and safely remove more atmospheric CO₂ as part of their emissions management and reduction plans, calling it a ‘critical’ tool for customers looking to achieve carbon neutrality in sectors that are difficult to decarbonize.
The DAC pilot began in 2015 when Carbon Engineering constructed a plant in Squamish. Its equipment was designed to accurately replicate the performance of commercial-scale modules. The company is currently still operating this DAC pilot for further testing and optimization. The company says when running, the plant captures and cleans about one ton of CO₂ per day.
“By capturing CO₂ directly out of the air, DAC can eliminate any emissions, regardless of where and when they occurred,” Oldham noted. “The exact amount of carbon captured and permanently stored is measured, making this a verifiable and quantifiable solution for carbon dioxide removal, or ‘negative emissions’, that has the potential to be scaled up to capture and store huge quantities of atmospheric CO₂. ”
Founded in 2009, Carbon Engineering aims to develop and commercialize technology that captures industrial-scale quantities of CO₂ directly from the atmosphere. In 2015, Sustainable Development Technology Canada invested $3 million into the company. This year, the company raised $25 million investment from the federal government, and a whopping $90 million CAD, the largest private investment made into DAC to date.
“We’re essentially providing a service, much like water treatment, sanitation, or waste disposal,” Oldham said. “But instead, we’re providing an air treatment service that removes the excess CO₂ in the atmosphere, which the scientists tell us is putting our planet at risk.”
Construction of the plant is slated to begin in 2021 and is expected to become operational within about two years.
Image courtesy Carbon Engineering