Direct Air Capture (DAC), one of the technologies for removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and combating climate change, has been making headway with commercial plants. Last year, Climeworks built the first commercial plant to capture CO2 from the air in Switzerland. The plant filters CO2 from ambient air, and supplies the 900 tons of CO2 annually to a nearby greenhouse for fertilizing plants.
This year, the Canadian company Carbon Engineering, published a report in the journal Joule on “A Process for Capturing CO2 from the Atmosphere”. The report provides a detailed cost breakdown, suggesting the technology is not as expensive as initially thought. In 2011, one estimate indicated the cost would be at least $600 per ton of CO2 removed. Based on the use of the gas after collection, Carbon Engineering states costs are estimated to be from $94 to $232 per metric ton of CO2 captured. Compared to the social cost of carbon (the metric used to evaluate the monetary cost of CO2 emission in the air), this estimate may appear high. Most carbon capture projects are looking at CO2 revenue streams to offset this cost, such as the capture of CO2 near an oil well site to inject into the well for enhanced oil recovery.
"What is new and important here is not just the technology but also the transparency around estimated engineering costs," said David Victor, a University of California, San Diego, expert on energy and climate change policy. "There's been a lot of talk about DAC but nobody really knows what it costs."
Carbon Engineering’s commercial scale pilot facility can scale up to capture one million tons of CO2 annually, the equivalent of the emission of 250,000 cars annually. The CO2 produced is being used as a feedstock to produce diesel and jet fuel.