Carbon Engineering (CE) was founded in Calgary, Canada, by Harvard Professor David Keith. An avid mountaineer, passionate Arctic explorer, and son of a wildlife biologist; with a cross-disciplinary background in experimental physics, hardware engineering, 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.
Following years of prototyping and technology research and development, in 2015 CE moved to Squamish, British Columbia, to build an operational pilot plant. We first captured CO2 from the air in 2015, and produced our first batch of synthetic fuel in 2017.
Removing the vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere deemed necessary by scientists will require an all-hands approach in the decades to come. To help meet this need, CE believes cross-industry collaboration and global partnerships will be critical in enabling the widespread deployment of Direct Air Capture.
Our global deployment partner, 1PointFive – a subsidiary of energy leader Occidental – is leaning into decades of project engineering and delivery expertise to build large numbers of facilities worldwide. CE remains the core DAC solutions provider while our colleagues in climate action at 1PointFive work with regional partners to deploy these facilities, each bringing complementary and localized expertise.
Effective and supportive policies play a key role in enabling climate-relevant volumes of DAC globally. The past several years has seen major progress in the number of countries and markets implementing climate policy, and in the types of support for DAC and low carbon fuels. DAC is viable in leading jurisdictions today, and policy makers globally are seeking to replicate and expand successful policy frameworks, further strengthening the overall market.
California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard has established a strong precedent in its approach to DAC-to-sequestration projects. In California, DAC projects anywhere in the world that permanently store atmospheric CO2 underground can generate credits for the decarbonization of California’s transportation sector. This policy, in combination with the U.S.’s Section 45Q, which awards a tax credit for each metric ton of CO2 removed and sequestered, has in part supported CE’s commercialization in the US.
We are now seeing additional jurisdictions designing similar policy mechanisms and evaluating others, including sustainable aviation fuels mandates and carbon removal contracts. The trend is clear: leading markets have recognized the value that DAC and clean fuels can play in our efforts to get to net zero and are working to incorporate them as fast as possible. As these leading policies, and more to follow, spread and tighten around the world, there is increasing potential for widespread global deployment of DAC.
In 2015, Carbon Engineering constructed an end-to-end Direct Air Capture pilot plant. With our vendors and partners, we designed pilot-scale equipment for all of the four core modules within our carbon removal technology – the air contactor, pellet reactor, slaker, and oxy-fired calciner – to test and refine solutions for commercial-scale modules.
In 2017, Carbon Engineering incorporated fuel synthesis capability into the Direct Air Capture pilot plant, creating an AIR TO FUELSTM pilot plant based entirely on industrially-scalable technologies. This allowed us to produce liquid fuels on site from CO2 captured from the air and enabled continued testing and refining of the fuel synthesis process.
In 2021, the Carbon Engineering Innovation Centre was built, creating the world’s largest dedicated Direct Air Capture research and development (R&D) facility. This advanced R&D facility provides an environment where our engineers can conduct ongoing technology development and testing. It enables Carbon Engineering to continue innovating our Direct Air Capture platform so technology improvements can be introduced to commercial facilities worldwide.
In 2022, using data from our pilot plant and Innovation Centre, and in partnership with 1PointFive, CE completed the engineering design for the first large-scale commercial facility to use our technology.
Later in 2022, construction began on the first large-scale commercial plant to utilize our technology. Located in Texas, the facility is being developed by 1PointFive, a subsidiary of Occidental’s Low Carbon Ventures business. When fully operational, the Direct Air Capture facility will be the largest in the world – expected to surpass existing DAC facilities by 100x.
Carbon Engineering’s global deployment partner, 1PointFive, has announced a scenario of deploying 100 DAC facilities by 2035, each with an expected capacity of up to 1 million tonnes per year. At 100 million tonnes per year, this scenario creates a carbon capture capacity equivalent to the emissions from approximately 21.5 million standard cars or the carbon removal work of approximately 4 billion trees.
The company estimates that up to 135 DAC facilities could be deployed by 2035 with an increase in global policy initiatives and demand in the voluntary market.
By 2050, we believe Direct Air Capture facilities have the potential to 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.