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Department of Energy Bets Big on Direct Air Capture

Analysis by Energy Workforce President Tim Tarpley

Energy Workforce President Tim Tarpley

In what represents one of the largest U.S. government bets on carbon capture ever, the Energy Department announced last week a $1.2 billion investment in two large direct air carbon capture (DAC) projects — one in Texas and one in Louisiana. If completed as anticipated, the two facilities will eliminate more than two million metric tons of CO2 every year, which would make them the largest carbon capture projects in the country. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm touted the technology during a call on Friday, saying the projects would be equivalent to removing half a million gas cars off the road. 

This $1.2 billion is the first portion of money allocated to specific projects out of a $3.5 billion program created to remove carbon from the atmosphere in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that passed Congress last year. DOE stated that two more carbon removal sites are expected to be announced in 2024.

The Louisiana hub, “Project Cypress,” will be built by a carbon storage company called Battelle, along with two partners: direct air capture companies Climeworks Corporation and Heirloom Carbon Technologies. Project Cypress is planned to capture more than one million metric tons per year of CO2 from the atmosphere and store it underground in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana.

In Texas, the project “South Texas DAC Hub” will be built by the carbon capture company 1PointFive, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, in collaboration with engineering company Worley and another carbon capture company called Carbon Engineering. They are also aiming to remove up to one million metric tons of CO2 annually and store it underground in Kleberg County, Texas.

In addition, the agency said it had selected 19 projects for smaller “award negotiations,” including $3 million for a direct air capture hub proposed by a division of Chevron Corp. in San Ramon, California, and $12.5 million for the Wyoming Regional Direct Air Capture Hub proposed by privately held Carbon Capture Inc.

This large bet on direct air capture shows that the Biden Administration is confident in the ability for this technology to come to fruition in a timely manner. Direct air capture has been criticized by some as being too unproven and too energy intensive to truly lower overall emissions. Some on the left have also criticized the technology because they see it as a vehicle to extend the life of traditional oil and gas, as opposed to a quicker move to renewables, which they support. Proponents have argued that DAC and other forms of carbon sequestration are a win-win in that they allow us to use existing infrastructure to produce energy with lower emissions.

Additionally, with the foreign and often unreliable supply chains that solar and wind still face, carbon capture allows the U.S. to maintain its energy security all while lower its overall emissions. This announcement seems to indicate that the Biden Administration is coming around to the latter. 

Close attention will be paid to these projects as they move forward, as the Administration is touting the IRA and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill as two of its major achievements as we go into election season.  

Tim Tarpley, Energy Workforce President, analyzes federal policy for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Energy Workforce newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, activities and more.



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