Our Technology

What is Direct Air Capture?

Direct Air Capture is a technology that captures carbon dioxide directly from the air with an engineered, mechanical system.

Our Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology does this by pulling in atmospheric air, then through a series of chemical reactions, extracts the carbon dioxide (CO2) from it while returning the rest of the air to the environment. This is what plants and trees do every day as they photosynthesize, except Direct Air Capture technology does it much faster, with a smaller land footprint.

The inputs and outputs of CE's Direct Air Capture process
The inputs and outputs of CE's Direct Air Capture process

How DAC works

Our Direct Air Capture technology has been designed to continuously capture CO2 from atmospheric air and deliver it as a gas for use or storage, bringing together four major pieces of equipment that each have industrial precedent.

The process starts with an air contactor – a large structure modelled off industrial cooling towers. A giant fan pulls air into this structure, where it passes across thin plastic surfaces that have potassium hydroxide solution flowing over them. This non-toxic solution chemically binds with the CO2 molecules, removing them from the air and trapping them in the liquid solution as a carbonate salt.

The CO2 contained in this carbonate solution is then put through a series of chemical processes to increase its concentration, purify and compress it, so it can be delivered in gas form ready for use or storage. This involves separating the salt out from solution into small pellets in a structure called a pellet reactor, which was adapted from water treatment technology. In this chemical reaction, in addition to precipitating out the calcium carbonate pellets, the original capture chemical to be used in the air contactor is regenerated.

These pellets are then heated in our third step, a calciner, in order to release the CO2 in pure gas form. This step also leaves behind calcium oxide which is mixed with water in the slaker to rehydrate it, and then it is fed back into the pellet reactor, beginning the cycle again.

CE’s Direct Air Capture process, showing the major unit operations - air contactor, pellet reactor, slaker, and calciner - which collectively capture, purify, and compress atmospheric CO<sub>2</sub>
CE’s Direct Air Capture process, showing the major unit operations - air contactor, pellet reactor, slaker, and calciner - which collectively capture, purify, and compress atmospheric CO2
Key features of CE’s DAC technology

Standardized design

A commercial facility that uses CE’s technology can be built in one or many megatonne per year trains. Alongside partners, we bring a standardized ‘design one, build many’ approach to deployment, working to duplicate near identical plants adjusted for location specific considerations. This helps support the rapid build-out of large-scale facilities. Our design also assumes that eventually at least 10 identical trains will be built in a particular location for maximum cost efficiency.

Industrial precedent

At CE, we’ve built our DAC technology around industrial precedent by utilizing known equipment and suppliers, and then innovating, adapting and integrating them to create our DAC system. This means our system can be built at industrial scales largely with existing supply chains.

Designed for the tough stuff

DAC can effectively address CO2 emissions from any source. As the world seeks to decarbonize, there will be several activities – like long-haul air travel - with emissions that are very challenging, expensive or impractical to eliminate. This is where DAC comes in – We can eliminate the tough stuff in every industry.

Closed chemical cycle

Our DAC technology captures CO2 from the air in a closed “chemical loop” that re-uses the same capture chemicals with minimal waste.

Energy source

CE’s DAC process is powered by a combination of renewable electricity and natural gas. In the case of natural gas, the CO2 from combustion is not released, but is captured and delivered along with the CO2 captured from air.

Location

CE is focused on developing DAC solutions at large scale and low cost – which means supporting 1PointFive and our partners in evaluating locations that optimize performance.

DAC is most efficiently placed in locations where there is abundant, low-cost renewable energy to power the facility and easy access to sequestration sites to store the captured CO2 (e.g., proximate to existing pipelines and storage sites). Other key location factors include proximity to ports for easy of delivery of construction materials, near sea level for higher air density, at warmer temperatures (i.e., above 5 degrees Celsius) and where large acreage is available to maximize the number of megatonne trains that can be installed in a single location.

DAC can be built on non-arable land, avoiding competition for areas needed to grow food. In addition, water usage is dependent on climate conditions and can be minimized by location flexibility.

Interested in building out DAC projects? Get in touch with 1PointFive to learn more.

Types of Plants

CE is focused on supporting the deployment of two types of plants.

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DAC + Storage Plants

Direct Air Capture and storage plants deliver the captured atmospheric CO2 to durable forms of storage. There are a number of forms of CO2 storage, but CE’s main focus is to create durable, long-lived carbon removal by burying the CO2 deep underground through secure geologic storage.

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AIR TO FUELSTM PLANTS

AIR TO FUELS™ plants combine CE’s Direct Air Capture technology with hydrogen generation and fuel synthesis capabilities to deliver low carbon intensity synthetic fuel.

Graphical representation of one of Carbon Engineering’s large-scale air contactors.

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