Squamish’s Carbon Engineering begins work on a second carbon-capture facility in Texas
The company has been taking CO2 out of the air since 2015, and now creates facilities capable of withdrawing one million tons of carbon annually from the atmosphere.
Rendering of a Carbon Engineering large-scale DAC facility. Photo: Carbon Engineering
Carbon Engineering’s technology sounds like the stuff of science fiction. Through a complex, non-toxic process, its facilities capture carbon dioxide – the greenhouse gas primarily responsible for climate change – directly out of the air.
Understandably, the Squamish company’s tech is in high demand. Carbon Engineering this week announced that it has begun front-end planning and engineering for Direct Air Capture (DAC) facilities in Kleberg County, Texas. The site is expected to provide access for the potential construction of multiple DAC facilities that would be capable of collectively removing up to 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually.
Why it matters
The facility is the second large-scale commercial operation to be built. The first is also being developed in Texas, in conjunction with Carbon Engineering’s partner 1PointFive. The goal of that construction was, according to the company, to “ignite an industry by demonstrating that megaton-scale DAC is feasible, affordable, and available”: a promise it seems to be fulfilling.
Quick on the draw
Carbon Engineering is putting up this second plant faster. Using a new standardized method for the global build-out of its facilities, the company says it expects to complete this work roughly 50 percent faster than earlier projects. Once finished, the company suggests it will have produced the required materials to be ready to replicate megatonne DAC trains within multi-megatonne facilities.
“This work brings together all our progress from the past months to get us ready for major deployment in the U.S.,” said Daniel Friedmann, CEO of Carbon Engineering. “Now, with this ‘copy and paste’ megatonne DAC facility, we’re working towards widespread, multi-million tonne deployments across the U.S.”
How Carbon Engineering captures CO2: more than a load of hot air
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 over 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.
Carbon dioxide gas, in its pure and compressed form, is also useful to a lot of industries. Carbon Engineering takes the carbonate solution and passes it through a series of chemical processes to make it commercially useful. To do so, it separates the salt from the solution and creates small pellets. These pellets are then heated in order to release the CO2 in pure gas form. This step also leaves behind processed pellets that are hydrated and recycled back into the system to reproduce the original capture chemical.
Innovation in Squamish
Carbon Engineering is based in Squamish, where it houses its dedicated technology development and innovation centre. At that facility, the company is continually fine-tuning its processes, and creating more efficient ways to capture CO2. Currently, Carbon Engineering is testing an improved capture material and expects to rubber-stamp this development for commercial use by the end of the year. Initial tests indicate this new material could produce an approximately 20 percent improvement in capture efficiency, which could result in further energy and cost savings for commercial facilities.