It was a big week for carbon removal as the Biden Administration announced the single largest investment ever made for direct air capture technology. The Energy Department will award $1.2 billion for the Project Cypress DAC installation in Louisiana and the South Texas DAC facility.
Aside from the ten-figure funding, the amount of carbon that these projects expect to capture is extraordinarily ambitious. Both projects said they would capture one million metric tons of carbon in their first year of operation, while the Texas project claims it will pull in 30 million metric tons of carbon per year once it is up and running.
That is orders of magnitude beyond the average 10,000 metric tons of carbon that current DAC facilities capture, and more than 250 times the carbon intake of the biggest existing operation in the world.
As expected, the announcement has been met with its fair share of critics, including those from the communities that could stand to gain as many as 4,500 jobs from the funding.
Director of the Louisiana-based Deep South Center for Environmental Justice Monique Hardin told the Guardian that the project would only encourage more pollution from the oil and gas industry that organizations like hers are working hard to clean up after.
It’s an argument against the moral hazard of promoting carbon removal tech to carbon-burning industries that found an echo in a particularly fiery Al Gore Ted Talk last week.
It is hard to argue against this point when it comes directly from the horse’s mouth. At an oil industry conference earlier this month, Occidental CEO said she believes carbon capture will “help to preserve our industry over time”, giving them “license to continue to operate for the 60, 70, 80 years that I think it’s going to be very much needed.”
Then there’s the issue of carbon economics. The market for buying captured carbon dioxide is still in its fledgling stage, meaning that companies that have few options when it comes to selling the carbon they capture. The market received a boost from the 45Q tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act, which offer tax breaks for storing carbon capture underground, or selling it for either Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) or other downstream products.
But To date, the most reliable source of income is still EOR, where carbon dioxide is injected into retired oil wells to squeeze out the last drops of crude at the bottom. That oil is then burned, putting a dent in the carbon solvency of the whole enterprise.
1PointFive, the company behind South Texas DAC, announced a partnership with Occidental last year for a major EOR project. The press statement didn’t mention EOR specifically at the time, but said that Occidental partnership would create the opportunity for corporations to purchase carbon credits and “net-zero oil”.
Those are exactly the kinds of euphemisms that make climate advocates want to scream, but it also does not represent the full picture of opportunities for DAC to make an impact on climate change.
Supporters of DAC are quick to point out that carbon removal and emissions reductions are not mutually exclusive. The latest IPCC report made clear that both aggressive reductions and wide-spread carbon removal efforts, including DAC, are necessary to avert the most horrific climate scenarios. Even in a world where human activity isn’t emitting any excess carbon, carbon capture technologies like DAC will play a role.
And while Enhanced Oil Recovery is troublesome from a carbon perspective, alternatives are emerging alongside growing demand for carbon removal. Brooklyn-based Air Company is integrating captured CO2 into making vodka while in Austin, captured carbon is making its way into beer at Austin Beerworks.
Furthermore, while existing DAC technologies certainly have their warts, proponents argue that is all the more reason to accelerate innovation now to improve things like energy requirements and capture efficiency. Funding at the scale of last week’s Department of Energy grant could mean that DAC companies will have more leeway to innovate and iterate on their technology without having to create more partnerships with oil and gas majors to get it done.
Regulatory changes should also help accelerate alternatives to enhanced oil recovery for carbon capture companies. In 2010, the EPA created a special class of underground wells known as Class IV wells set aside for the exclusive purpose of storing carbon dioxide and hazardous materials. Wells used for oil recovery are known as Class II wells.
Until recently, only a handful of Class IV wells had been approved, but in the last two years, applications have exploded, mostly from behalf of carbon capture companies looking to cash in on the $180/ton incentive from 45Q.
There are currently 10 applications for Class IV wells under review in Louisiana, which could help give the state a “primacy” privilege to manage the approval and regulation of wells itself, removing one regulatory hurdle for DAC developers. The EPA said it was ready to hand over the keys to Class IV well management to state officials after it passed an environmental justice review.
SURVEY: What did you think of this edition of This Week in Climate? Let us know in our feedback survey here!
Check out some of the latest featured jobs below. If you don't see anything that speaks to you, you can always go to Climatebase to explore thousands of other opportunities.
“Cambio is building software to help commercial real estate companies and their corporate tenants decarbonize their buildings. We do this by empowering them with data, specifically carbon emissions analytics and AI-based retrofit recommendations. We were former commercial real estate investors with 14 years of aggregate experience at Goldman, KKR and Oxford Properties / OMERS. We ...”
“PowerX is on a mission to help businesses waste less energy and money. We are committed to developing innovative solutions that address our climate crisis. By equipping companies with the best tools to minimize energy consumption and save money, we believe we can make a significant impact in the fight against climate change, one site at a time. We're always ...”
“ClimaFi gets commercial real estate companies to reach financial wellness and net-zero through renewble energy integrations, such as solar, battery storage, and EV. ...”
“Climate Change AI (CCAI) empowers a global community of innovators, practitioners, and decision-makers to accelerate responsible climate action through the use of AI, by addressing critical gaps in expertise, education, coordination, and research-to-deployment infrastructure. Since 2019, CCAI has inspired, informed, and connected thousands of stakeholders through networking and knowledge-sharing events, summer schools and other educational programs, international policy reports, and ...”
“Graphyte’s mission is to fight climate change by building the most scalable, permanent carbon dioxide removal solution on the planet. Graphyte technology enables us to remove CO 2 from the atmosphere and store it for at least 1,000 years. The IPCC and other leading authorities agree that carbon dioxide removal will be needed in volumes greater than 5 billion tons ...”
“ev.energy is a technology company on a mission to decarbonize mobility. Recently named “World’s Best Energy Start-up,” we are a team of former management consultants, data scientists and software developers working on an industry-leading algorithm that obtains real-time data from utilities to charge electric vehicles with the cheapest, greenest energy available while supporting the long-term stability and resilience of the ...”
“We are an impact-driven, remote-first, AgTech startup headquartered in Germany and Brazil with the goal to reverse climate change and make tropical agriculture more regenerative, low-carbon and sustainable. We are working with Enhanced Rock Weathering in tropical agriculture, currently with focus on Brazil. We do that to create a liveable planet for future generations and, in specific, to regenerate soils ...”
“CTrees is the first global system to measure carbon and activity in all the world’s forests. Our mission is to track carbon in every tree on the planet. Harnessing advances in satellite technology, big data processing, and artificial intelligence in our custom AWS architecture, CTrees provides a complete quantification of global carbon stocks by accounting for biomass of all trees inside ...”
“Enertiv has reinvented traditional real estate workflows by centering them around decarbonization and fueling performance with real-time monitoring insights ...”
“GaeaStar combines traditional craftsmanship with additive manufacturing techniques, creating technology for a world where convenience does not destroy our planet. Our motivation is simple: We believe we have a responsibility to eliminate the negative impact of single use products. Inspired by how street vendors serve tea in India, we are developing technology to print ultra-thin ...”
“A Human-First organization that is passionate about creating the fastest and lowest-cost path to decarbonize buildings. Real estate is the single largest contributor to carbon emissions, with buildings and construction generating nearly 40% of global carbon emissions. As the wave of sustainability incentives and requirements sweep across the US and the world, buildings are going to be right in the ...”
“Tellus Markets creates technology solutions that simplify climate action. Our flagship offering, Tellus Climate Suite, provides a turnkey solution for enterprise sustainability teams. This platform enables users to understand their emissions footprint and take concrete action to meet their climate goals. ...”
“Turbine Education is on a mission to provide accessible climate change education for young people, so that they are equipped with the knowledge to help them thrive in the transition to a clean economy. Turbine Education is a social enterprise based in Scotland. It was established in 2023 by Andrew Hall, who also created Sumdog, an online learning service used by ...”
“Holocene is pioneering a novel approach to direct air capture (DAC) that we believe to be a robust, scalable, and affordable route to significantly reduce atmospheric CO2 levels and directly combat climate change. Our mission lies in our namesake, the Holocene Epoch, or the last ~12,000 years of Earth’s history where our global climate and atmospheric CO2 levels were remarkably ...”
“Hua Nani Partners (HNP) is a purpose-built organization providing policy, strategy, and advisory services for global change. Building on decades of experience in philanthropy, government, and the private sector, we provide customized support to clients committed to addressing the climate crisis. The HNP team brings versatility in skills and expertise across sectors, and we collaborate with a range of climate ...”
“DexMat is a rapidly growing startup that is building the sustainable materials economy of the future using advanced, carbon-negative materials. Based on IP from Nobel-winning physicists and chemists at Rice University, DexMat manufactures patented Galvorn materials that are superior to dirty commodity materials like steel, aluminum, and copper, and even specialty materials like carbon fiber and Kevlar. At scale, DexMat ...”
“WAP Sustainability is a partnership of sustainability catalysts providing technical and strategic expertise across a variety of sustainability services, such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Healthy Materials, Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) Management, and Carbon (GHG) Accounting. We act in various industries, including consumer and building products, manufacturing, technology, and financial services, and our clients range from Fortune 100 to ...”
“infiniRel offers equipment health diagnostics for renewable energy plants to improve efficiency and profitability. Similar to an EKG for heart failure prediction, our high-resolution measurements create unique data offering unprecedented insight for improving output, optimizing maintenance, and extending the life of critical assets. Our patented technology offers prescriptive diagnostics to global renewable energy developers and asset owners, combining signal-processing, proprietary algorithms, ...”
“Tradewater's mission is to improve our environment and create economic opportunity through the collection, control, and destruction of potent, high impact greenhouse gases. ...”
“Freshflow is building the food supply chain technology of the future to reduce global food waste. Freshflow is a new way to manage fresh products for grocery retailers. We do accurate order forecasting, replenishment, and inventory control that massively reduce food waste while still keeping shelves full. Doing that we reduce global carbon emissions, make fresh food cheaper and more available, and ...”
That's it for this week! Remember, you can always view thousands of more jobs on Climatebase.org.
👋 Get discovered. Create a profile to have employers hire you.
🚀 Accelerate your climate career. Apply to join the Climatebase Fellowship.
🌱 Hiring? Post your jobs to reach over 200k monthly users users and over 70,000 newsletter readers
❤️️ Share a link to this week's edition
We sat down with Dimitry Gershenson, the co-founder and CEO of Enduring Planet. Dimitry and his co-founders Erin and Josh are no strangers to climate finance, and they’re leveraging their expertise to help climate tech startups and SMBs get the funding they need to save the planet.
A world where crops risk disappearing offers an opportunity for climate tech.
Brood X is coming.
In today's edition of This Week in Climate, we look at evolving cooling solutions to combat record heat.
In today's edition of This Week in Climate, we examine climate change and the rise of disease, viruses, and antibiotic resistance.