The lush forests of the Pacific Northwest have long been recognized as an ideal location for carbon storage. However, there is another resource in the region that holds great potential for trapping and removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere – the basaltic rock formations that stretch across vast areas of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. A consortium known as the Ankeron Carbon Management Hub is now investigating the possibility of transforming the Pacific Northwest into a carbon-capture hub, capable of securely storing CO2 or converting it into other compounds. With $3 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Ankeron project aims to conduct a comprehensive two-year study on the scientific, technical, economic, and community aspects of carbon removal in the region.
The Need for Carbon Removal at Scale
The urgency of finding effective tools to remove carbon from the atmosphere cannot be overstated. Based on scientific evidence, it is clear that significant carbon emissions reductions alone will not be sufficient to avert the worst climate change scenarios. Therefore, the development and deployment of carbon removal technologies are crucial. The Ankeron project recognizes the importance of testing and evaluating promising technologies as soon as possible.
Carbon Capture Technologies
The Ankeron Carbon Management Hub encompasses two key elements of climate tech: direct air capture (DAC) devices and methods for utilizing or permanently storing captured carbon. Three DAC companies, including U.S. startups Heirloom Carbon and Sustaera, along with Norway’s Removr, are part of the project. These companies specialize in developing technologies that extract CO2 directly from the atmosphere and hold onto it.
To effectively store or utilize the captured carbon, four additional companies are involved in the Ankeron project. Carbfix, a company based in Reykjavík, Iceland, has developed a technology that accelerates the natural mineralization of CO2 when it reacts with basaltic rock. By dissolving CO2 in water and injecting it underground, Carbfix can mineralize the CO2 within approximately two years. Blue Planet, a California startup, combines CO2 with waste calcium from sources such as demolished concrete, cement kiln dust, and steel slag, resulting in a synthetic limestone that can be used in concrete production. Twelve, a startup based in Moses Lake, Washington, manufactures sustainable aviation fuel using a process it describes as “industrial photosynthesis,” mimicking the reactions in which plants convert CO2 into starches using sunlight and water. LanzaTech, an Illinois company, feeds CO2 to bacteria that produce ethanol and other chemicals used in the manufacturing of sustainable fuels, fabrics, packaging, and other products.
Leveraging Basaltic Rock Formations
One of the key advantages of the Pacific Northwest as a potential carbon-capture hub is the presence of extensive basaltic rock formations. These formations provide an ideal substrate for capturing and storing CO2. Carbfix’s technology, for example, takes advantage of the reaction between CO2 and basaltic rock to mineralize the carbon dioxide. The region’s abundance of basaltic rock is a significant selling point for establishing a carbon-capture hub.
Clean, Renewable Energy for Carbon Capture
Another advantage of the Pacific Northwest is its access to clean, renewable energy sources. The region has a well-developed renewable energy infrastructure, which is essential for powering the carbon capture and utilization technologies. The availability of clean energy further enhances the feasibility and sustainability of the carbon-capture hub in the Pacific Northwest.
The Importance of Community Engagement
In establishing a carbon-capture hub, community engagement and buy-in are crucial. In the Midwest, plans for CO2 pipelines associated with carbon capture were rejected due to concerns raised by local landowners. To avoid similar complications, the Ankeron project emphasizes the importance of involving communities from the outset. Jillian Cadwell, a research associate at Washington State University Tri-Cities, highlights the need for community participation to ensure accurate information and to address any concerns or misconceptions about carbon removal technologies. Community engagement will be a significant focus of the Ankeron project, with Washington State University playing a key role in promoting awareness and understanding.
The Challenge of Carbon Removal
While carbon removal is essential for mitigating climate change, the capital requirements and costs associated with carbon-capture technologies are significant. At this early stage, the revenue streams for these technologies are also uncertain. The Biden administration’s Carbon Negative Shot initiative aims to improve the economics of carbon removal, aiming to reduce the cost of capturing and storing carbon to less than $100 per metric ton. Currently, the costs are at least six times higher. Experts estimate that by 2050, 10 gigatons of CO2 need to be removed annually, while the U.S. emitted 5 gigatons of greenhouse gases in 2020. The Ankeron project, with its funding from the Department of Energy and the commitment of its partners, seeks to address these challenges and contribute to the development of viable carbon removal solutions.
Private Sector Support and Investments
The private sector, particularly tech companies in the Seattle area, is actively supporting and investing in the carbon removal market. Microsoft, for example, has committed to paying Heirloom Carbon for carbon removal services, with the agreement potentially worth $200 million. Heirloom utilizes limestone-based technologies to absorb CO2. Amazon, too, has made significant investments in carbon removal projects, including a deal with 1PointFive, a company that permanently traps carbon in underground rock formations saturated in saltwater. These investments by tech giants underscore the growing recognition of the importance of carbon removal and the potential of the Pacific Northwest as a hub for such initiatives.
See first source: Geekwire
What is the main goal of the Ankeron Carbon Management Hub project?
The Ankeron project aims to explore the potential of the Pacific Northwest for carbon capture and storage or conversion, funded by a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for a comprehensive two-year study.
Why is carbon removal considered crucial?
Carbon removal is crucial to mitigate the worst climate change scenarios as significant carbon emissions reductions alone are not sufficient. The project aims to test and evaluate promising carbon removal technologies.
What are the two key elements of climate tech encompassed by the Ankeron project?
The project encompasses Direct Air Capture (DAC) devices to extract CO2 from the atmosphere, and methods to utilize or permanently store the captured carbon.
How does Carbfix technology work?
Carbfix, based in Reykjavík, Iceland, has a technology that accelerates the natural mineralization of CO2 with basaltic rock by dissolving CO2 in water and injecting it underground to mineralize the CO2 within approximately two years.
What advantage do the basaltic rock formations in the Pacific Northwest provide for carbon capture?
The basaltic rock formations are ideal substrates for capturing and storing CO2, with technologies like Carbfix taking advantage of the reaction between CO2 and basaltic rock to mineralize carbon dioxide.
How is clean, renewable energy related to the carbon-capture hub in the Pacific Northwest?
The region’s well-developed renewable energy infrastructure is essential for powering carbon capture and utilization technologies, enhancing the feasibility and sustainability of the carbon-capture hub.
Why is community engagement important in establishing a carbon-capture hub?
Community engagement ensures accurate information dissemination and addresses concerns or misconceptions about carbon removal technologies. It aims to avoid complications like those faced in the Midwest with CO2 pipelines.
What challenges are associated with carbon removal?
Challenges include significant capital requirements, uncertain revenue streams, and the current high costs of capturing and storing carbon, which the Biden administration’s Carbon Negative Shot initiative aims to reduce to less than $100 per metric ton.
How are private sector tech companies supporting carbon removal initiatives?
Tech companies like Microsoft and Amazon are actively investing in the carbon removal market. For instance, Microsoft has committed to a potentially $200 million deal with Heirloom Carbon for carbon removal services.
Featured Image Credit: Mat Weller; Unsplash – Thank you!