Innovation will be key to accelerating the clean energy transition and reaching a net zero economy. Edison Energy is following the latest innovations in decarbonization across technologies, projects, and programs, from conception through completion.
Direct air carbon capture and sequestration (DAC) technologies
The big picture
DAC technologies are considered critical to achieving a net-zero economy by 2050 and limiting global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius, in line with the Paris Agreement.
A global research effort spearheaded by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
How it works
DAC technologies extract carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the atmosphere, which can then be permanently stored in deep geological formations that prevent its release back into the atmosphere, thus achieving negative emissions. Despite their critical role, however, DAC technologies have not been assessed in a forward-looking, dynamic system context—until now.
Two DAC technologies were assessed via a new computer model, placing them in the context of climate change mitigation scenarios. These scenarios are currently used in projections reported by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The scenarios were created by researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and are consistent with the climate targets of the Paris Agreement.
The researchers are currently analyzing the environmental performance of solvent-based and sorbent-based DAC technologies, which would separate CO2 from the air and transport it through a pipeline to a storage site. It would then be compressed and injected into a geological reservoir through wells approximately 1.8 miles deep.
Benefits of DAC as a carbon removal option include its limited land and water footprint and the viability of locating plants on non-arable land close to suitable storage, eliminating the need for long-distance CO2 transport, according to the International Energy Agency.
Why it matters
The NREL analysis will guide policy discussions and help set priorities for emerging R&D that supports decarbonization targets.
NREL notes that while deployment of DAC technologies can help achieve long-term climate goals, decarbonization targets should remain in place. This is because rapid decarbonization is required to increase the efficiency of DAC in removing CO2. This highlights the fact that decarbonization of the electricity sector, coupled with improvements in DAC technology, “are indispensable to avoid environmental problem-shifting,” according to researchers.
Pilot plants are currently testing both processes, with facilities operating in Canada utilizing the solvent method, and in Iceland utilizing the sorbent method.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the Energy Edge Innovation Series!