Plans to support four large-scale, regional direct air capture hubs with $3.5bn have been unveiled by the US Department of Energy (DOE) as it looks to support President Joe Biden’s goal of achieving a net-zero economy by 2050.

The US DOE of Thursday (19th May) unveiled the effort that will capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution directly from the air to help address the impacts of climate change, create well paid jobs and pave the way for a cleaner future.

This comes as the DOE predicts that, by mid-century, CO2 removal technologies will need to be deployed at the gigatonne scale in order to meet set targets. To put this in perspective, one gigatonne of subsurface sequestered CO2 is equivalent to the annual emissions from the US light-duty vehicle fleet—the equivalent of approximately 250 million vehicles driven in one year.

Carbon capture technologies have been a talking point for the US Government for quite some time now. In July last year (2021), the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) delivered a carbon capture, utilisation and sequestration (CCUS) report to Congress to support President Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Published at the end of June (2021), the report provided an inventory of existing permitting requirements for CCUS deployment and identifies best practices for advancing the efficient, orderly, and responsible development of CCUS projects at increased scale.

Now, the US DOE is building on these efforts and is looking to further develop direct air capture (DAC) technologies in the region. DAC allows for the removal of CO2 from the air and is regarded as the only available solution that is able to reduce atmospheric concentration of the gas in a scalable manner. 

Jennifer Granholm, US Secretary of Energy, said, “The UN’s latest climate report made clear that removing legacy carbon pollution from the air through direct air capture and safely storing it is an essential weapon in our fight against the climate crisis.”

“President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is funding new technologies that will not only make our carbon-free future a reality but will help position the US as a net-zero leader while creating good-paying jobs for a transitioning clean energy workforce.”

Each of the projects selected for the regional direct air capture hubs programme will demonstrate the delivery and storage or end use of removed atmospheric carbon. The hubs will have the capacity to capture and then permanently store at least one million metric tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere annually, either from a single unit or from multiple interconnected units.