Article image

Climate control: U.S. will invest $1.2B in direct air capture initiatives

The Biden administration has announced a major financial push to kickstart the US carbon removal industry. The Energy Department will award $1.2 billion to direct air capture plants proposed by Occidental and Climeworks.

The initiative marks a massive leap in the battle against global warming and a pivotal step towards curbing the nation’s greenhouse emissions.

Direct air capture plants

Direct air capture (DAC) plants have the potential to become the foundation of the future green economy. Direct air capture installations function as colossal vacuum systems, drawing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and subsequently using chemical processes to sequester this greenhouse gas. 

The captured CO2 can then either be stored underground or repurposed as an ingredient in industrial materials, notably cement.

Net zero emissions 

As of now, DAC operations have not reached a scale or economic viability that makes them globally ubiquitous. Yet, if these hurdles can be surpassed, the technology promises a significant acceleration in our journey to achieving net-zero emissions. 

“If we deploy this at scale, this technology can help us make serious headway toward our net zero emissions goals while we are still focused on deploying more clean energy at the same time,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Two major ventures

A noteworthy aspect of this announcement is the construction of two major DAC ventures: Project Cypress in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, and the South Texas DAC in Kleberg County. 

Project Cypress is run by Battelle, Climeworks Corporation and Heirloom Carbon Technologies. The South Texas DAC Hub was proposed by Occidental Petroleum’s subsidiary 1PointFive and partners Carbon Engineering Ltd and Worley.

Both ventures aim to remove an impressive one million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually at their inception. Furthermore, insiders from the Texas project hinted at ambitions to amplify this figure to an astounding 30 million metric tons yearly once the operation reaches its full potential.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards highlighted the strategic significance of his state in this initiative. With its rich history in petrochemical manufacturing combined with a dense network of pipelines and suitable geology, Louisiana emerges as a prime candidate for spearheading carbon mitigation projects.

Major progress

“It depends on multiple factors, but I would wish to have first capture in 2025/2026,” Jan Wurzbacher, Climeworks director and founder, told Reuters. 

Heirloom CEO Shashank Samala would like to hit a million tons per year by 2029 or 2030. “Just two years ago, we were in a petri dish where we were removing grams of CO2 from the air,” said Samala. Soon, the company will aim to remove hundreds and thousands of tons of CO2 per year.

“If we continue this pace of exponential growth every year, I think a billion tons a year is definitely, definitely achievable.”

No time to waste

The initiative demonstrates the government’s eagerness to back novel technologies that capture and store carbon dioxide, one of the primary culprits behind global warming.

Claire Nelson, a renowned research scientist from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, emphasized that while transitioning from fossil fuels remains imperative, the sheer magnitude of required change necessitates the integration of direct air capture as an additional weapon in our arsenal against climate change. “In order to have direct air capture ready at the scale we need it by 2050, we need to invest in it today,” Nelson stated.

Tim Lieuwen, the executive director at the Strategic Energy Institute at Georgia Institute of Technology, echoed the need for DAC, especially in industries with heavy pollution footprints.

Ambitious plans

For a sense of scale, a project in Iceland launched in 2021, previously celebrated as the world’s largest, manages to capture the CO2 equivalent emitted by approximately 800 cars daily. 

By comparison, the proposed US initiatives are projected to enhance the global DAC capacity by an astounding 400 times, according to Sasha Stashwick, the policy director at Carbon180, an independent nonprofit dedicated to carbon removal.

While details about the final destination of the captured carbon remain under wraps, officials from the Department of Energy have confirmed that neither project would deploy the captured CO2 for enhanced oil recovery. 

This decision, as Stashwick noted, is paramount for fostering public trust and ensuring the safe and permanent storage or reuse of the extracted carbon.

“This is really the debut of the direct air capture industry in the US. It’s going to be many people’s first introduction to technological carbon removal,” Stashwick told CNN.

More about direct air capture 

Direct Air Capture (DAC) is a promising and innovative technology designed to combat climate change by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from ambient air. Unlike conventional methods that focus on capturing emissions at their source (such as power plants), DAC can be used to draw CO2 from anywhere in the atmosphere. 

How does it work?


Fans pull ambient air into a DAC system where it passes through a filter or liquid solvent containing chemicals that selectively bind with CO2.


The CO2 is then isolated from the binding agents through heating or other processes, leaving behind a concentrated stream of pure carbon dioxide.

Storage or utilization

Once captured and isolated, the CO2 can be stored underground in geological formations or utilized in various industrial applications such as the creation of synthetic fuels, carbonate minerals, or incorporation into building materials like cement.


Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day