Recent developments in carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology have been a subject of considerable interest. Jeffrey Beyer's recent appearance on Asharq Bloomberg provided for an in-depth discussions on this vital topic. Read below for some of the key takeaways from Beyer's interview.
1) DAC as a long-term 'restoration' technology: Beyer highlighted the ultimate ambitions of Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology, as a gradual solution that can reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations over the long term. Even if deployed at scale, it is likely to capture only a small fraction of today's emissions, making it unviable as a significant mitigation technology. Instead, it might serve as a 'restoration' technology that aims to restore the atmosphere's carbon dioxide concentrations to pre-industrial levels over many decades or even centuries.
2) The challenge of cost: Beyer addressed the high costs of DAC technology. Currently, DAC remains one of the more expensive methods for emissions reduction. For example, Climeworks' technology costs approximately $600 per tonne of captured CO2, but is optimistic that these costs will substantially decline by 2030, with estimates ranging from $250 to $300 per tonne. Occidental, another key player, reports costs of $400 to $500 per tonne, with expectations of reaching $200 to $250 per tonne in the near future.
3) Urgency of cost-effective climate solutions: Recognizing the urgency of the climate crisis, Beyer stressed the importance of swiftly implementing cost-effective climate solutions like renewable energy and energy efficiency. While DAC holds significant potential, it should not overshadow immediate, affordable strategies for emissions reduction.
4) The Role of Oil Companies: In the realm of CDR innovation, Beyer suggested that oil companies, with their substantial resources and expertise, are well-suited to invest in complex DAC projects. This strategic move could diversify their portfolios while contributing to carbon removal efforts.
5) The Near-term Impact of DAC: Beyer provided a pragmatic perspective on DAC, indicating that its substantial impact on climate change is likely to be realized over the long term rather than in the immediate future.
6) Prioritizing lower cost carbon removal options: An essential takeaway from the discussion is the necessity to prioritize the reduction of CO2 emissions before delving into more expensive removal technologies, and then to prioritize low cost removal technologies first. Cost-effective approaches with additional benefits, such as reforestation, marine ecosystem restoration, and other land-based carbon sequestration options like biochar, should continue to play a primary role in carbon removal.
7) Capturing methane and investing in hydrogen: For oil and gas companies, Beyer recommended considering strategies with more immediate returns on investment. This includes capturing and utilizing methane emissions, which have a significantly higher impact on climate change than carbon dioxide. Additionally, investing in the burgeoning hydrogen market, forecasted to exceed $300 billion by 2030, presents opportunities for these companies.
While DAC holds promise for the future, it is essential to remain committed to immediate, cost-effective climate solutions and adopt a holistic approach to combat climate change. Oil and gas companies, in particular, have a unique role to play in both carbon capture and sequestration and emerging energy markets like hydrdogen.