The carbon economy
Transport is one of the few sectors where CO2 emissions are increasing. Technology innovation is not able to keep up with the growth of long-distance aviation, shipping and truck transport. Direct air capture can be used on the short term to take those emissions back from the atmosphere and store them permanently underground. In this way it is possible to reduce the CO2 footprint of the transport sector while it continues to look for solutions that avoid the emission of fossil CO2 in the first place. This entails the use of batteries or e-fuels powered by solar and wind. These technologies need more time to make transport CO2 neutral. Direct air capture can buy them this time. Several players in the transport area already indicated that they are willing to include the price of direct air capture and storage in their transport services provided it can be done in a cost-effective way.
The built environment
The emissions caused by heating of buildings is another sector where CO2 emissions keep growing. It takes huge infrastructure investments like heat networks which take decades to build and put into operation. While this transition takes place, direct air capture offers any building owner the opportunity to become CO2 neutral by paying for the removal and storage of the CO2 emissions caused by the heating of the buildings.
While direct air capture can help to become CO2 neutral on the short term, it will also be needed to clean up the historical emissions that caused the CO2 level to raise up to 420 ppm. The IPCC clearly indicates that negative emissions will be needed to reach the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement by 2050. This is a longer term market as countries will need to agree on splitting the costs of this clean-up operation. But it needs to be done and the sooner, the better.
Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR)
CDR will be the largest application of DAC technology in the long term. It will be indispensable for offsetting unavoidable and removing historical emissions, which can’t be realized by point source capture of CO2 from fossil sources.
Another large application for DAC will be renewable synthetic fuels (including natural gas, diesel, gasoline, kerosene), methanol and naphtha.
Long-distance flights will rely on kerosene, at least for the coming decades. Renewable kerosene can be synthesized out of direct air captured CO2 and renewable hydrogen. This makes aviation carbon-neutral.
Shipping and trucking
Renewable synthetics can be made to fuel ships (e.g., using methanol) and trucks (e.g., using diesel) and make these forms of long-distance transport more sustainable.
The materials industry needs a renewable source of carbon to continue serving their markets and applications in a sustainable way. Direct air capture is the ideal solution for the chemical industry provided it can be done in a cost-effective way. With green hydrogen and CO2 from air we can finally stop the use of fossil oil and gas and make renewable materials instead.
Vertical farms are considered to be the future of agriculture as it allows to grow crops anywhere in the world, including in those areas where the climate is very hostile.
High-tech greenhouses are dependent on the supply of CO2 from nearby chemical plants. This limits the available locations as the transport of CO2 is very expensive. Moreover, the existing greenhouses face an increase of the price for CO2 as the CO2 coming from chemical plants is fossil and will be increasingly taxed. Therefore the sector is looking for a green and local source of CO2. Direct air capture technology is their preferred solution, provided it can be offered at prices comparable to existing CO2 prices in the sector.
Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)
The CEA market includes high-tech greenhouses, vertical farms and plant factories, where enriching air with CO2 (to 1,000 ppm) boosts crop yields by 20-40%.