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SIMPLIFIER: DIRECT AIR CAPTURE (DAC) AND CLIMATE CHANGE



  May 30, 2024

SIMPLIFIER: DIRECT AIR CAPTURE (DAC) AND CLIMATE CHANGE



WHAT IS DIRECT AIR CAPTURE (DAC)?

Direct Air Capture (DAC) is a nascent technology designed to remove CO₂ directly from the atmosphere. The captured CO₂ is then stored underground, effectively reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the air.

HOW DOES DAC WORK?

DAC plants consist of modular units with fans and filters that suck in air and extract CO₂. This CO₂ is then compressed and stored underground. The modular nature of DAC plants allows for scalability, which is essential for reducing costs over time.

WHAT ARE THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH DAC?

Currently, the estimated cost of DAC is about $1,000 per tonne of CO₂. However, as the technology scales and becomes more efficient, costs are expected to decrease significantly. Projections suggest that by 2050, the cost could fall to around $100-150 per tonne of CO₂.

WHY IS DAC IMPORTANT FOR CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION?

DAC is crucial because it can help achieve net zero emissions by removing CO₂ from the atmosphere. This technology is particularly important for sectors that are hard to decarbonize, such as aviation. By capturing and storing CO₂, DAC can complement other carbon-abatement strategies.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE OF DAC TECHNOLOGY?

The world’s largest DAC plant, inaugurated by Climeworks in Iceland, captures 36,000 tonnes of CO₂ per year. This amount is equivalent to the emissions from 4,500 UK households. Despite the high costs, DAC’s modular design promises significant cost reductions as production scales.

HOW DOES DAC COMPARE TO OTHER CARBON-ABATEMENT OPTIONS?

While DAC is currently more expensive than some carbon-abatement methods, its costs are projected to decline. For example, synthetic jet fuel made using green hydrogen and captured CO₂ might cost $220 per tonne of avoided CO₂, which is higher than the projected future costs of DAC. This makes DAC a potentially competitive option for long-term carbon mitigation.

WHAT ARE THE LONG-TERM PROSPECTS FOR DAC?

If DAC scales to the multi-gigatonnes of capacity required by most net zero pathways, it could become a vital component of global climate strategy. Its declining costs could reduce the overall burden of the energy transition and support sectors that are difficult to decarbonize.

WHAT ROLE DO REGULATIONS PLAY IN DAC DEVELOPMENT?

Current regulations encourage the development of DAC by pushing industries towards decarbonization. Hard-to-abate sectors, such as aviation, are likely to support the scale-up of DAC due to its potential to provide a reliable and investable solution for CO₂ removal.

WHY SHOULD INDUSTRIES INVEST IN DAC?

Industries, particularly those facing stringent decarbonization regulations, would benefit from investing in DAC technology. Supporting the scale-up of DAC can help reduce future costs and provide a feasible pathway for achieving net zero emissions.



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