Affordable direct air capture: myth or reality?

Affordable direct air capture: myth or reality?
Jun 08, 2022

Seminar explores economic feasibility of technology that could play a key role in the energy transition

Direct air capture (DAC) technologies extract carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the atmosphere. DAC and other carbon-removal technologies may play a key role in global and national efforts to achieve net-zero emissions economies in which the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere is equivalent to that being removed. Carbon removed from the atmosphere in hard-to-decarbonize sectors such as aviation and heavy industry could be utilized to produce synthetic fuels or stored underground. As the technology has not yet been demonstrated at large scales, the future cost of DAC and its potential to support an affordable path to a net-zero economy is uncertain. Capture cost estimates are wide-ranging, from USD $50/ton to $1,000/ton of CO2.

To explore the economic feasibility of large-scale DAC, the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and MIT Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment (LAE) convened a seminar entitled “Affordable Direct Air Capture: Myth or Reality?" on the MIT Campus and online on May 26. Moderated by MIT Joint Program Founding Co-Director and Sloan School of Management Professor Emeritus Henry Jacoby, and introduced by LAE Director and MIT Aero/Astro Professor Steven Barrett, the seminar featured presentations by two trailblazers in carbon-removal technology.

MIT Energy Initiative Senior Engineer Howard Herzog, a pioneer in carbon capture research and author of the book Carbon Capture, evaluated the technical, logistical and financial challenges of deploying DAC at scale. Harvard University Professor of Applied Physics David Keith, founder of Carbon Engineering, a company developing technology to capture CO2 from ambient air, offered his perspective on those challenges as well as opportunities for DAC to play a substantial role in advancing net-zero economies.  

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