With the effects of climate change coming more rapidly than predicted, and global emissions still rising, humankind has reached the point where simply cutting pollution levels won’t be enough to avoid catastrophic impacts. We’ll need to suck carbon directly from the sky. Fortunately, an entirely new arsenal is emerging in the fight against climate change: negative emission technologies, or NETs. NETs are different from conventional approaches to climate mitigation in that they seek not to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere but to remove carbon dioxide that’s already there.
As an article by By Fred Krupp , Nathaniel Keohane and Eric Pooley states a new system “would also reward the inventors and entrepreneurs who developed new, better technologies to capture carbon from the air and the investors and businesses that took them to scale. Without these incentives, those players will stay on the sidelines. By spurring innovation in lower-cost NETs, incentives would also ease the way politically for an ambitious pollution limit — which, ultimately, is necessary for ensuring that the world meets it climate goals. Simply put, humanity’s best hope is to promise that the next crop of billionaires will be those who figure out low-cost ways to remove carbon from the sky.”
Here’s a few of the players.
(Content pulled from company websites and not independently verified. Environmental Defense Fund does not endorse companies or products.)
Climeworks captures CO2 from air with the world’s first commercial carbon removal technology. The direct air capture plants remove CO2 from the atmosphere to supply to customers and to unlock a negative emissions future. The plants capture atmospheric carbon with a filter. Air is drawn into the plant and the CO2 within the air is chemically bound to the filter. Once the filter is saturated with CO2 it is heated (using mainly low-grade heat as an energy source) to around 100 °C (212 °F). The CO2is then released from the filter and collected as concentrated CO2 gas to supply to customers or for negative emissions technologies.
CO2-free air is released back into the atmosphere. This continuous cycle is then ready to start again. The filter is reused many times and lasts for several thousand cycles.
Global Thermostat (GT) uses custom equipment and proprietary (dry) amine-based chemical “sorbents” that are bonded to porous, honeycomb ceramic “monoliths” which act together as carbon sponges. These carbon sponges efficiently adsorb CO2 directly from the atmosphere, smokestacks, or a combination of both. The captured CO2 is then stripped off and collected using low-temperature steam (85–100° C), ideally sourced from residual/process heat at little or no-cost. The output results in 98% pure CO2 at standard temperature and pressure. During the process only steam and electricity are consumed, without the creation of emissions or other effluents. This entire process is mild, safe, and carbon negative.
Global Thermostat’s Carbon Capture & Utilization Plants can reliably produce unlimited amounts of CO2 at a low cost, and on-site as needed. This results in commercial-use ready CO2, eliminating the need for long pipelines and/or transportation costs. GT Plants also have a small footprint.
Plants can be Stand-Alone (Pure Air) or Co-Located with large emitters — both new & existing. In fact, integrating GT’s post-combustion process with an existing power plant is quite simple, and has been done with just a single day of power plant down-time. GT enables a true Carbon Negative electricity generation: a GT plant utilizes the residual heat of an adjacent fossil fueled power plant, while simultaneously capturing the CO2-rich flue gases it produces. This process allows the plant to capture substantially more CO2 than it emits. Similarly, GT can utilize the “harmful” heat byproduct of PV solar farms to power its plants, turning the farms into giant carbon sinks, while increasing their profitability through CO2 sales.
Unlike some other green initiatives, GT requires no government subsidies or Carbon Credits to be economical and profitable.
Founded in 2009, CE is a Canadian-based clean energy company leading the commercialization of groundbreaking technology that captures CO₂ directly from the atmosphere, and a second technology that synthesizes it into clean, affordable transportation fuels. From a pilot plant in Squamish, B.C., CE has been removing CO₂ from the atmosphere since 2015 and converting it into fuels since 2017.
CE is privately owned and is funded by investment or commitments from private investors and government agencies. CE’s investors include Bill Gates, Murray Edwards, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, LLC, Chevron Technology Ventures, and BHP. CE has been well supported within the clean-tech innovation system and has led projects funded by top-tier government agencies in both Canada and the USA.
Direct Air Capture (DAC) is a technology that captures CO2 from atmospheric air, and provides it in purified form for use or storage. CE’s DAC technology does this in a closed loop where the only major inputs are water and energy, and the output is a stream of pure, compressed CO₂. This captured, compressed CO₂ then offers a range of opportunities to create products and environmental benefits, including CE’s main focus, production of clean-burning liquid fuels with ultra-low carbon intensity.