Carbon Dioxide Removal

Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) is a rapidly growing global technology trend that has the potential to be a trillion-dollar opportunity, while simultaneously serving as a mechanism for reaching global climate goals. While California is leading the way in the United States, Denmark is leading the way in the European Union, creating a significant opportunity for meaningful and impactful collaboration [1].

Carbon Dioxide Removal

Even with massive reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions, it is still insufficient to reach our global warming targets agreed upon within the Paris Agreement. For this reason, we need to not only reduce emissions, but also to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.

CDR, or so-called “negative emissions”, is the process of capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it for decades to millennia on land, in the ocean, in geological formations or in products like chemicals and building materials.

CDR encompasses a large variety of technologies from nature-based solutions (land-based as well as ocean-based capture technologies), to engineered solutions such as capturing CO2 directly from the air through Direct Air Capture (DAC).

An example is the Silicon Valley based start-up company, Heirloom, a DAC company who has developed a technology that captures CO2 from the atmosphere by engineering and accelerating the absorbing process that naturally occurs in limestone. The limestone is subsequently heated in a kiln powered by renewable energy to release the captured CO2. The gas can then be stored underground for permanent sequestration or utilized in a product. An example of utilization could be in concrete, as Heirloom are doing in their collaboration with the start-up CarbonCure who utilize captured CO2 in concrete production.

Why is this interesting?

The need for CDR technologies is both urgent and necessary. The world will have to remove 10 gigatons of CO2 per year, if we wish to reach our climate goals and the chance of limiting global warming by less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. A message and “final warning” highlighted again in March 2023 by global leading climate scientists in the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2023).

A robust start-up ecosystem of CDR ventures is on the rise and government incentives, venture capital and corporate commitments are supporting innovators of CDR to accelerate the space. Yet, the research and development stage of novel CDR is still early-stage, technologies are high-risk, and entrepreneurs that have launched successful, new companies are not abundant.

To reach the necessary scale and close the current gap in CDR, it is necessary to both rapidly expand conventional nature-based CDR and at the same time invest in discovery, development and maturation of novel CDR solutions to bring them from lab to market [3].

How Far Are we?

It is hard to grasp all the development that has occurred within only the past year in CDR.

The federal government is among the most important drivers. To reach the US’s climate targets, is required to capture between 400 million and 1.8 billion tonnes of CO2 annually by 2050, up from 20 million tonnes today [10]. To reach this scale, the US government has announced several noteworthy initiatives. One of them being the ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ and the 45Q tax credit for CDR and DAC. That gives a unique opportunity for CDR start-ups to receive a tax credit per tonne of CO2 permanent removed and stored: USD 85 through CDR and USD 180 for DAC. [12].

At state level, several states have expressed strong interest in leading the way on the roll-out of DAC, however California is leading the way [1]. California is among the most advanced states in CDR on both policy, research and development, as well as action [1]. Last year, California adopted a framework on reduction in emissions by 2045, with 15 percent to be addressed through CDR under strict oversight, amounting to 75 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2045. Also worth mentioning is the Carbon Dioxide Removal Act (SB308), which would be a key legislation for CDR at the state level [1]. If approved the bill would require high-emitters to compensate for 100 % of their emissions from 2045 [13].

A trial scale DAC plant was announced in March 2023. The plant is capable of removing 500.000 metric tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere per year and is opening in Texas [4].

Simultaneously, more and more CDR start-ups are emerging. 95 start-ups have graduated from the CDR accelerator run by the organisation AirMiners, and together they have raised USD 57 million of venture capital and grants [5]. Furthermore, the Carbon XPRIZE, a USD 100 million competition to scale carbon removal, funded by Elon Musk, is also expected to spur innovation.  

From an investment perspective, CDR is seen as a trillion dollar opportunity and CDR may attract USD 150 billion in investments globally this decade, according to a prediction by Wood Mackenzie [7]For instance, venture capital firm Lower carbon Capital announced in April 2022 that they raised a USD 350 million venture fund dedicated to carbon removal start-ups [8].

At the same time the market of carbon credits is growing with large technology companies leading the way.

  • The initiative Frontier is a notable player, a so-called Advance Market Commitment (AMC) that was launched by Stripe, Alphabet, Shopify, Meta, and McKinsey & Company. On May 18 2023, Frontier announced the first offtake agreement of a USD 53 million deal with Charm Industrial [9].
  • On May 15, 2023, Microsoft said that they would purchase (for an undisclosed sum) 2.7 million tonnes of carbon captured over a decade from biomass-burning power plants run by Orsted, and pumped underneath the North Sea by a consortium involving Equinor, Shell and TotalEnergies.
  • And later in May 2023 JP Morgan announced to spend more than USD 200 million on a combination of carbon removal technologies equal to 800.000 metric tons of CO2 [11].


In academia, the global peer-reviewed CDR scientific literature now consists of over 28,000 English-language studies, growing at a faster rate than that for climate change as a whole [3]. Again, California is leading the way with technology roadmaps, technologies and programs for Carbon Removal California’s research institutions, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, UC Berkeley and Stanford University.

CDR is a group of many different technologies, ranging from TRL 0 to 7. At the same time, it can be said that there still have not been invented solutions that are scalable and energy efficient enough to reach our goals.

Let’s connect

Please reach out to Josefine Lange Strandgaard  josstr@um.dk for any inquiries. We, at ICDK Silicon Valley, offer our services to both corporates, SME’s and academic partners looking to dive further into the area of carbon removal.

Sources

Global Tech Trends conference on 12.SEPTEMBER

Innovation Centre Denmark launched our Global Tech Trends platform in collaboration with TechSavvy.media, which gathers 12 unique descriptions of technological trends from all over the world. You can learn more from the people behind the reports at our Global Tech Trends conference on September 12th.

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