A major opportunity has emerged to generate reliable power while capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and can be implemented on a global scale. This is now possible due to advances in four key technology areas that can be combined into one larger system. Fossil fuel power generation with carbon capture, direct air capture (DAC), energy storage, and renewable energy can be combined to provide reliable power to the electrical grid and generate substantial negative carbon emissions at the same time. In addition to scaling up renewable energy, this will help the oil and gas sector transition to and participate in a low-carbon economy. If implemented around the world, this approach could reduce carbon emissions by billions of tonnes per year, while creating major economic opportunities.
Many companies have committed to net-zero targets over the next few decades. For instance, over 200 companies have committed to net-zero by 2040 and 21% of 2,000 of the world’s largest public companies, representing sales of nearly $14 trillion, now have committed to net-zero by 2050. These companies will need to purchase carbon emission credits to meet their respective commitments. Because of this, demand for these credits can be expected to grow rapidly, which can generate significant revenues for companies implementing these combined power systems with carbon capture and storage. Substantial revenues can be earned by companies that generate reliable electricity and create negative emissions at the same time using this combination of technologies.
In addition to being stored in the ground, captured CO2 by industrial carbon capture and DAC can be utilized in several ways including vertical farming, increasing the strength of concrete, and methanol production. The rapid growth of carbon utilization opens up major economic opportunities such as the growth of local industries and the expansion of international markets and trade opportunities. Carbon utilization markets are estimated to reach $800 billion to 1.1 trillion by 2030 in the US, making it a profitable component of the energy transition. As reliable sources of CO2 become available around the world, it can be expected that the utilization of this resource will increase.
By including renewable energy sources like wind and/or solar in the combination of technologies, it provides a cost-effective source of inexhaustible energy while also generating new jobs and economic opportunities. Combining renewables and energy storage with power generation with carbon capture and DAC enables reliable power to be supplied to the electrical grid even when wind and/or solar farms are not generating sufficient power for many days at a time. The DAC system helps in this regard as it can be turned down or off when necessary to allow more power to be supplied to the grid. It also helps maximize the utilization of the power that is available, leading to a more profitable facility.
While the cost of DAC is currently quite high, it is expected to decline quickly. For example, the cost of capturing and sequestering a metric tonne of CO2 in the new plant by Climeworks in Iceland was reported to be in the range of 600 to 800 US dollars. There are now several other companies developing DAC technologies, some of which are indicating that they can capture CO2 for less than $100 per tonne when their respective technology is implemented on a commercial scale.
Facilities that enable long-term carbon storage have been rapidly growing and there is now increased availability of climate finance such as carbon-tech funding. This combined with the technologies mentioned above has created many new business opportunities around the world that can help substantially reduce global carbon emissions, create jobs, and enable economic growth at the same time.
An important feature of this combination of technology areas is it is not dependent on any single company’s technology. As a result, organizations that want to implement this combination of technologies have many choices and can and should choose their best options.
Progress can be further accelerated by organizations taking the initiative to develop projects in collaboration with these relevant technology communities and accessing the available financing. This would result in a faster rate of development and scale-up of technologies to reduce carbon emissions. Several funding sources are available to accelerate technology development and scale-up, such as venture capital, government grants and related incentives, private grant funding, crowd-funding, and loans. To help companies obtain capital to build a facility, online platforms like Puro-Earth help facilitate long-term off-take agreements for the carbon that is expected to be captured and stored by this facility. Furthermore, to make investments in these substantial projects more attractive to investors, they can be refinanced with Green Bonds after they are operational and generating income.
To accelerate the implementation of this combination of technologies, sustainable energy research centres around the world could collaborate to develop and implement demonstration projects that contain a combined power system along with carbon capture. They can also partner with local project developers to develop a plan and budget for at least one full-scale combined power facility in their respective regions. If implemented, this approach would facilitate a rapid scale-up of these technologies leading to substantial profits while helping countries meet their respective climate commitments.