The Innovators: Carbon Engineering is building a plant to help restore the atmosphere

A U.S. consortium has licensed the Squamish-based company's design for a direct air capture facility.

Credit: Carbon Engineering

Carbon Engineering has signed a deal to build the world’s first commercial direct air capture facility

A U.S. consortium has licensed the Squamish-based company’s design for a direct air capture facility

Moon shots don’t get bigger than what Carbon Engineering has set out to do: remediate our increasingly heat-trapping atmosphere by pulling out the carbon dioxide. (Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s use the CO2 to create a renewable synthetic fuel.) The process is working on a small scale at a test plant in Squamish, part of the reason the World Economic Forum recognized Carbon Engineering as one of 100 global Technology Pioneers in 2020.

Next, shareholders including Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates want to see it proven on a commercial scale. In August, Carbon Engineering signed a licensing deal with U.S. venture 1PointFive, owned by a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Corp. and a private equity firm, to finance and build the world’s first such direct air capture (DAC) facility, most likely in Texas.

“It gives us a really good big brother to help us build that first plant, the most important milestone for this company,” says CEO Steve Oldham. Because government incentives in the U.S. only apply to carbon capture and sequestration, this operation won’t include an Air to Fuels component. However, Oldham holds out hope for upcoming national fuel standards in Canada that would favour  his firm’s low-carbon fuel. “My greatest wish would be that our next plant is built in Canada and is a fuels plant,” he says.

Meanwhile, Carbon Engineering broke ground in June on its own Innovation Centre in Squamish, to be completed in 2021.