Immense and implausible increase needed in global carbon capture and storage, to remove aviation etc CO2

The UK has no proper policy to decarbonise aviation.  Instead it hopes there will be breakthroughs in aircraft technology and a vast increase in “sustainable” aviation fuels (SAF) which – miraculously – will not compete or conflict with other sectors, or cause other environmental problems.  And they are hoping much of the carbon that aviation will continue to emit will be (magically) removed from the air and stored permanently underground (CCS). So far the success of carbon capture plants has been underwhelming. Hardly any carbon has been stored underground. Indeed, even if the global capacity for CCS was expanded very fast (40% per year or so) it is not economic. Unless the expensively captured carbon can be sold to another sector (another industry, greenhouse horticulture, making other fuels) it is not economic. There are estimates that the amount of CO2 that would have to be captured and permanently stored globally would be perhaps x1000 as much as now, just by the 2030s.  And the CO2 produced from agriculture, cement making etc – hard to electrify – would be in addition to that from aviation, requiring CCS.  In reality, the carbon capture hoped for is not going to happen, certainly not on the scale needed.


Global CCS rates overestimated by up to 30% – Imperial College London


By Oliver Gordon  (From Energy Monitor)

Researchers at Imperial College London compared estimates of stored carbon with official reports and found that actual carbon stored is overestimated by 19–30%.

The amount of carbon that has been captured and stored globally via carbon capture and storage (CCS) since 1996 has been overestimated by up to 30%, according to new research from Imperial College London.

Imperial’s researchers compared estimates of stored carbon with official reports and found that the reports lead to overestimates of actual carbon stored by 19–30%. They calculate that 197 million tonnes of carbon were actually captured and stored between 1996 and 2020. A lack of consistent reporting frameworks is leading to this being overestimated in reports, giving an inaccurate picture of the technology’s contribution to fighting climate change.

CCS aims to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere by capturing greenhouse gas emissions at source and storing them underground. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said the technology will be key to reaching the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Currently, the most centralised and up-to-date information on capture rates comes from the annual reports and databases of think tanks. However, these report CCS activity according to the capacity of facilities rather than actual carbon stored. As of 2021, they estimated global capture capacity at 40 million tonnes per year across 26 operational CCS facilities.

No centralised framework exists to compel the reporting of precise amounts of carbon captured, so actual rates of capture, transport and storage are not consistently reported or centrally gathered. This leads to CCS’s impact being overestimated, the researchers say.

They suggest reporting frameworks should include key details like intended capture rate capacity, maximum capture rate capacity, annual capture of CO2, annual transport of CO2, annual storage of CO2, quality assurance measures such as third-party auditing and reasons for any offline periods where the CCS facility could not operate as intended.

“Carbon capture and storage is rightly a cornerstone of climate change mitigation, but without a centralised reporting framework we approach climate change on the back foot when we need to be more proactively tackling the issue with robust and accurate reporting,” says the report’s lead author Yuting Zhang, a PhD candidate at the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London.

Even based on current reporting, CO2 capture accounted for only 0.12% of total emissions in 2020.


Going giga: The race to scale up the direct air capture industry

1st August 2022

Construction has begun in Iceland on the world’s largest direct air capture facility to date, as the industry looks to scale at a pace rarely seen in the history of commercial markets. Net zero depends on it.

By Oliver Gordon (Energy Monitor)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the world will need to remove billions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere – and that’s on top of the vast quantities of emissions cuts also required.

However, last month, on a grassy, far-flung stretch of the Icelandic tundra, an important step was taken towards that aspiration: Swiss company Climeworks broke ground on its newest and largest direct air capture and storage (DAC+S) facility to date, Mammoth.

Carbon collectors at Climeworks’s Orca DAC facility in Iceland. (Photo by Climeworks)
Although it sounds straight out of a sci-fi novel, DAC is a technology that uses machines to react with and capture CO2 molecules from the atmosphere. Mammoth – set to become the world’s largest DAC facility – represents a demonstrable step in Climeworks’s ambitious scale-up plan: multi-megatonnes of carbon removal capacity by 2030, and gigatonne capacity by 2050.

In order to position sustainability and ESG at the heart of one’s business strategy, actionable insights are required that can only be created through leveraging leading tech and talent. Rio ESG founder Dan Botterill discusses the need to ‘democratise’ access to these essential resources.

From banking to mining, and energy to pharmaceuticals, promoting robust environmental or social policies is now an established fact of the corporate landscape, whatever the industry.

According to a recent survey by risk and compliance software firm Navex, 87% of 1,250 managers and senior executives polled at companies across the US, UK, France and Germany plan to either maintain or increase their focus on ESG over the coming year. In the same poll, 83% of respondents agreed that a brand’s reputation is influenced by ESG.

Climeworks opened the world’s first DAC facility, Orca, in September 2021 – also in Iceland. Now, following a $650m equity raise earlier this year, the company plans to rapidly scale up the market’s capacity by introducing large, modular DAC facilities and investing vast sums in developing the technology. Mammoth has been designed with a nominal CO2 capture capacity of 36,000 tonnes (t) per year – an order of magnitude larger than Orca’s 4,000t capacity – when fully operational in 18–24 months’ time.

However, to avoid climate catastrophe, DAC+S technologies need to reach gigatonne capacity at a pace that would make the solar and wind power industries blush. At the Direct Air Capture Summit in Zurich, Switzerland, in July 2022, the industry’s great and good gathered to discuss just how to scale up at such an unprecedented rate.

Lessons from wind and solar
In Zurich, Climeworks founders Dr Christoph Gebald and Dr Jan Wurzbacher said going giga would require $30–50bn of investment per year from 2030 onwards. That would represent 10% of the annual investment made into renewable energy capacity today: an ambitious target that will require the private and public sectors to work closely together.

Large-scale deployment will also be heavily influenced by the green energy requirements of powering DAC facilities. Conservative projections estimate the industry will require up to 25GW of wind and solar capacity per year from 2030 onwards, accounting for roughly 10% of the installed wind and solar capacity in 2021 and 3% of the annual capacity projected as of 2030.

“The gigatonne target is ambitious, but the numbers are clear: it is doable,” said Gebald. “To make this happen, corporate action, investments, policy-shapers and regulatory guidelines need to come together.”

The DAC industry will have to take a leaf out of the books of the wind and solar industries, which are praised for the remarkable speed of their commercial scale-ups. The global solar PV industry grew by a staggering 30% a year for 30 years. However, DAC needs to go faster still, requiring 45% growth a year to reach a billion tonnes by 2050. Nonetheless, Dr Greg Nemet of the University of Wisconsin and author of How Solar Became Cheap, encouraged the industry to take inspiration from solar.

“The US created the [solar PV] technology, Germany created the market and China made it cheap,” said Nemet in Zurich. “The international flow of people, capital and machines was crucial to make it happen.

“DAC needs to go faster,” he added. “When the Germans were thinking in megawatts, the Chinese were thinking in gigawatts. That is the thinking we need.”


Private initiative was a crucial part of the growth of solar. The technology’s early adopters did not have policy supporting their investments. Instead, they were people choosing to have off-grid homes; people consciously opting to pay more for their energy because of their preference for the technology. “This was very small-scale, on an individual or company level, [but] even with limited volumes, this did get things started,” recalled Nemet.

GE Renewables’ Paul Judge pointed out that although the wind industry was seen as a mature market 15 years ago, it still required subsidies to grow as it was more expensive than gas. Costs in the industry have since come down 70% in the last ten years. “We did this by solving a series of small problems,” recalls Judge. “Modularity is essential. Incrementalism is not always the most exciting, but it allows steady scaling, which is very important to build trust.”

DAC scale-up: volume, volume, volume
The DAC market now requires policy intervention to create the widespread expectation that there will be large and growing markets in future, argued Nemet. That will serve to reduce risk and lead to private market investment, as well as encourage people to orient their careers toward DAC and start new businesses in the space.

However, policymakers need to go further than just send market signals, said Shashank Samala, CEO of DAC start-up Heirloom. There is a need for clear standards to differentiate between low-quality offsets and high-quality carbon dioxide removal (CDR). “This involves pricing high-quality credits efficiently by rewarding permanence, clear additionality, clear verification and approaches that value things like land efficiency and environmental justice,” Samala said.

Governments also need to help develop the surrounding infrastructure that will facilitate the industry’s growth – from new renewable energy projects to additional CO2 storage, and more robust supply chains for concrete, steel and sorbents. “We need policymakers to develop the infrastructure now, ahead of the rapid growth of this industry in the coming years,” said Samala.

For the CDR developers themselves, there were three clear messages that came out of the summit: build volume, work together, catalyse investment. In respect to volume, Christian Holzleitner, the European Commission’s head of land use and finance for innovation, called for developers to get more pilot projects under way to see how they work at scale, and to review their business models.

“The focus needs to be on volume; price will follow,” added Dr Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s chief environment officer. “The market is too early to let price be a significant signal.” Climeworks currently expects the cost of DAC to drop as low as $250–300 per megatonne of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) by 2030 for a large-scale facility.

Earlier in July, Climeworks became Microsoft’s first supplier of long-term carbon removal, with the companies signing a ten-year offtake agreement. It came after the tech giant announced in 2020 its ambitious commitment to not only become carbon negative by 2030 but also to remove all of its historic CO2 emissions by 2050. Climeworks will permanently remove 10,000t of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere on Microsoft’s behalf, representing one of the largest DAC agreements ever signed.

Many of the panellists in Zurich took the opportunity to call for greater collaboration within the industry. “From talents to capital, all need to cohesively come together to build the ecosystem,” said Carbon Direct’s CEO, Jonathan Goldberg. “There is no chance for just one solution to solve the challenge alone, partnerships are needed.”

Climeworks, for example, has an ongoing partnership with Iceland’s Carbfix, which provides the permanent underground storage for the captured CO2. Similarly, the Hellisheiði power plant, operated by ON Power, will supply the Mammoth plant and the Carbfix CO2 injection sites with renewable energy to run the entire DAC+S process.

In June 2022, twenty-two DAC technology companies – including Climeworks and Heirloom – came together with an array of investors, philanthropists, universities and other stakeholders to form an industry association, the DAC Coalition. The group announced to Twitter that it would focus on “educating, engaging and mobilising society to scale direct air capture in a sustainable, equitable and effective way”.

Carbon removal financing
There were numerous calls to find innovative approaches to catalyse investment in DAC scale-up in Zurich, but representing the other side of the negotiating table, JP Morgan’s Allison Fleming asserted that in order to attract bank lending, CDR projects need to “minimise risk by demonstrating that their technologies work as expected at a commercial scale”.

Climeworks’ $650m (SFr600m) equity injection in April marked a major milestone for the carbon removal industry. The financing was co-led by Partners Group and GIC, and attracted participation from the likes of Baillie Gifford, Carbon Removal Partners, Global Founders Capital, John Doerr, M&G, Swiss Re, as well as other new and existing shareholders including long-term investor and anchor shareholder BigPoint Holding. JP Morgan Securities served as the sole placement agent for Climeworks.

“Fixed price, long contracts, high credit for the offtakers: if you have that, finance will be thrilled to invest,” said Eli Mitchell-Larson, lead advocate at Carbon Gap, a new non-profit focused on carbon removal, and a researcher at Oxford Net Zero, a University of Oxford initiative. “That [those conditions] can come from a deployment incentive from governments,” he added.

Heirloom recently clinched a $53m equity injection to support the deployment of an ultra-low-cost DAC process that captures and processes CO2 ready for storage in rock form, and in late June, the world’s first solar-powered DAC company, AspiraDAC, launched, with purchases from Frontier – a $925m “advanced market commitment” from the likes of Stripe, Alphabet, Shopify, Meta and McKinsey to accelerate the development of carbon removal technology.

AspiraDAC is working with Australian start-up Southern Green Gas to produce and deploy the project’s solar-powered DAC modules by the end of 2022 – initially capturing one tonne of CO2 per day – supported by funding from the Australian Government’s Carbon Capture Use and Storage Development Fund.


As the world chugs slowly but inexorably towards its net-zero future, it has become apparent that although fossil fuels can be replaced by clean energy alternatives across much of the economy, some essential sectors will not decarbonise in time for 2050. Major industries like aviation, cement and steel production simply do not possess the affordable, scalable carbon-free technologies yet. These hard-to-abate sectors will likely continue to produce at least a few billion tonnes of carbon a year that will need to be neutralised through carbon removal.

For that reason, as Lowercarbon Capital’s Dr Clea Kolster concluded in Zurich, “there has never been a better time to found a DAC company”.



28.4.2022 (Energy Monitor)

CCUS (carbon capture, use and storage – ie. if it is used for another purpose, it is NOT stored in forever storage underground) will be crucial for sectors where emissions cannot be avoided completely, such as in heavy industry. The IEA estimates that to get to net zero, CCUS capacity will need to grow 40-fold by 2030, requiring a 50% capacity increase year-on-year.

That is a big ask. At present, captured carbon emissions amount to little more than 0.12% of energy-related CO2 emissions. Even though the technology has been around for decades, it has struggled to scale as capital costs have remained stubbornly high. Improving the economic and policy incentives, and building new revenues streams – such as finding new uses for the captured carbon or growing the carbon offsets market – will be essential for making CCUS affordable.


See also, from Alex Chapman of the New Economics Foundation (NEF):

Jet Zero pulls of the impressive feat of containing 62 ​policy commitments’ yet none which will actually ensure the decarbonisation of the sector. Instead, government gambles on being able to capture and store 20 – 30 million tonnes of carbon per year by 2030. As it stands, the world’s largest carbon capture plant has been having major trouble capturing just 0.02% of this amount. To believe that we’ll scale this up by a factor of 6,250 in just eight years seems like an incredibly risky, expensive, and unnecessary gamble with our safety and our futures. Not only that, but if we are serious about preventing the deadly heatwaves, summer wildfires or flooded homes which will result from climate breakdown, government will also need to do something about the non-CO2 gases.