Heirloom opens first commercial direct air capture facility in US

15 November 2023 | Muriel Cozier

New process represents one of the lowest cost pathways to permanent carbon dioxide removal.

US-based startup, Heirloom Carbon Technologies has opened the US’ first commercial-scale direct air capture (DAC) facility.

Located in Tracy, California, the facility will be able to capture up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, which can be then embedded permanently in concrete. This concrete can be used in construction and is also said to be stronger.

The company’s process is based around the use of limestone. Using a renewable energy powered kiln, the limestone is heated to extract carbon dioxide. This leaves a mineral powder that is spread across trays where it can absorb carbon dioxide from the air. Once the limestone is saturated with carbon dioxide the material is returned to the kiln and the carbon dioxide removed being stored underground or embedded in concrete.

Using inexpensive limestone, along with algorithms that help increase the capture capacity of the material, Heirloom Carbon Technologies says that its process represents one of the lowest cost pathways to permanent carbon dioxide removal.

The company has set a goal of removing 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2035 – around 20% of the US’ current annual emissions and 10% of global carbon removal needed each year by 2050.

Founded in 2020, Heirloom Carbon Technologies is said to be among the world’s leading DAC companies. During 2022 it raised $53 million in a Series A funding round, wth backers including; The Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, and Breakthrough Energy, which is one of the supporters of Cleantech for UK, launched earlier this year. Heirloom also partnered with CarbonCure to develop what is said to be the world’s first demonstration of DAC-to-concrete storage.

The opening of Heirloom Carbon Capture Technology’s DAC facility was attended by US Secretary of State for Energy Jennifer M Granholm.

In 2021 Climeworks, established in 2009 as a spinout from ETH Zhttp://urich, Switzerland put into operation what was said to be the world’s largest DAC and storage facility. Known as Orca, and located in Iceland, it is able to remove more than 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

The International Energy Agency’s Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2023 report, released in July, indicated that ‘more effort was needed’ in the deployment of DAC.

‘Lead times for DAC range from two to six years, suggesting that deployment in line with the Net-Zero Emissions Scenario could be achieved with adequate policy support. However most of the facilities announced to date are at very early stages of development and cannot be expected to reach final investment decision and operational status without continued development of market mechanisms and policies to create demand for the carbon dioxide removal service they would provide,’ the IEA notes.

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