Carbon Engineering (CE) was founded in Calgary, Alberta, by Harvard Professor David Keith. As an avid mountaineer, passionate Arctic explorer, and son of a wildlife biologist, with a cross-disciplinary background in experimental physics, hardware engineering, atmospheric research, and public policy, David’s views on climate change came from a vast range of experiences and perspectives.
David and others started to investigate Direct Air Capture, as an additional tool to emissions reductions, due to the growing awareness that the world would not only need to bring emissions to zero, but would also need to remove carbon back from the atmosphere. With support from a team of academic scientists, business leaders, and strategic investors, David founded CE to take a promising concept into real-world, hardware-driven engineering and design. Only by rolling up their sleeves to build and test hardware would the team determine how to deliver a reliable and economical air capture technology.
Following years of prototyping and technology research and development, in 2015 CE moved to Squamish, British Columbia, to build an operational pilot plant. It was from this new headquarters that our team fully demonstrated our Direct Air Capture and AIR TO FUELSTM technologies. We first captured CO2 from the air in 2015, and produced our first batch of ultra-low carbon synthetic fuel in 2017.
In partnership with Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, LLC (OLCV), a subsidiary of Occidental, we are jointly engineering the world’s largest Direct Air Capture facility, where industrial volumes of atmospheric CO2 will be captured from the air, and safely and permanently stored underground. The facility, located in the Permian Basin, U.S., will capture up to one million tons of CO2 each year. The CO2 will be utilized in OLCV’s enhanced oil recovery operations to produce carbon neutral crude and to provide permanent carbon removal for interested organizations to address their carbon footprint.
In parallel, CE is progressing opportunities for further Direct Air Capture and AIR TO FUELSTM plants in several markets around the world. We are ready to partner with companies, countries, and organizations worldwide to provide a variety of solutions to help drive down emissions and achieve vitally important climate targets. It’s our goal to ignite a critical new Direct Air Capture industry that will work alongside renewable electricity, energy efficiency, and clean innovations in all sectors to fully tackle the climate challenge.
While policy support for Direct Air Capture, and emissions reductions overall, has been limited in the past, this is now starting to change. Leading jurisdictions like California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and the EU have implemented effective market-based policies to reduce greenhouse gases and promote clean energy. Carbon pricing systems are being developed and examined around the world, and countries like Canada are designing carbon pricing and clean fuel regulations to work side-by-side.
The world will get there. The growth industries of coming decades will be dominated by those who can deliver energy, products, and services while minimizing environmental impacts. Collectively, these measures and regulations will create a market that supports and demands Direct Air Capture.
One leading example is California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard that awards credits for ultra-low carbon transportation fuels, and for projects anywhere in the world that permanently store atmospheric CO2 underground. The availability of these types of effective market-based credit programs makes the economics of Direct Air Capture viable today. As these policies continue to spread and tighten around the globe, we see our technology having significant potential for widespread global deployment.
In 2015, Carbon Engineering constructed an end-to-end Direct Air Capture pilot plant in Squamish, B.C., Canada. Pilot scale equipment for all of the four core modules within our technology – the air contactor, pellet reactor, slaker, and oxy-fired calciner – was designed with our vendors and partners to accurately replicate the performance of commercial-scale modules. We are still operating this Direct Air Capture pilot for extended testing and optimization efforts, and when running, the plant captures and purifies roughly 1 ton of CO2 per day.
In 2017, Carbon Engineering incorporated fuel synthesis capability into the Direct Air Capture pilot plant in Squamish, B.C., creating the world’s first AIR TO FUELSTM pilot based entirely on industrially-scalable technologies. This allowed us to produce liquid fuels on site from CO2 captured from the air, and will enable continued testing and refining of the fuel synthesis process. When operating, our AIR TO FUELSTM pilot produces roughly 1 barrel of fuel per day, which undergoes quality testing with our partner organizations.
Today, CE is constructing a Direct Air Capture Innovation Centre concurrently with the design and engineering work for our first commercial plants. The Innovation Centre is being built in Squamish, B.C., just a stone’s throw from our existing pilot plant. This centre will fully integrate our Direct Air Capture and AIR TO FUELSTM processes, and will be CE’s permanent R&D and advanced development headquarters where the team will continue to optimize and innovate our technologies. Using data from our pilot plant and Innovation Centre, and in partnership with Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, CE is currently completing the engineering design for our full-scale commercial facilities that we aim to deploy globally.
In 2021, we expect construction to begin on our first large-scale commercial plants. Our first project will be deployed in partnership with Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and will be built in the Permian Basin, U.S. It will capture up to one million tons of carbon dioxide from the air every year so it can be permanently and measurably stored underground.
CE is also progressing opportunities for plant deployment in other markets, and we envision delivering further Direct Air Capture and AIR TO FUELSTM plants in several locations in Canada, the US, UK, and Europe.
The CE business model is to license our technology to local plant developers and energy industry partners around the world to enable rapid and widespread global deployment of DAC technology. We envision deploying Direct Air Capture and AIR TO FUELSTM facilities in leading markets with the highest corporate and government targets, and the strongest policies that favour permanent sequestration of atmospheric CO2 and clean fuels such as CE’s. As global markets move to cut emissions and reduce dependence on fossil fuels, we see an immense opportunity to deploy Direct Air Capture and AIR TO FUELSTM facilities around the world to deliver clean fuels for transportation, and help drive emissions to zero through permanent carbon removal.
By 2050, we believe Direct Air Capture facilities will be playing a mainstream and significant role in the global effort to achieve net zero emissions and restore safe levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.