Aug 14, 2023 - Technology

Big Oil is getting more and more DAC-curious

Illustration of a lasso attempting to capture a carbon dioxide molecule

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Oil giants are increasingly testing the waters in the nascent direct air capture (DAC) industry.

Driving the news: Chevron will receive up to $3 million to help explore feasibility of a DAC project in California, the Energy Department revealed Friday.

  • And Shell's part of a consortium with Louisiana State University and the University of Houston. DOE may provide them with $3 million to explore a DAC "hub" in the Pelican state.
  • Both grants, which are subject to negotiation, are on the wider list of planned awards through the $3.5 billion DAC "hubs" program.
  • Shell also just revealed it's building a DAC demo facility in Houston, with planned startup in 2025.

State of play: That (relatively) minor funding came alongside DOE awarding up to $1.2 billion to two consortium to build large-scale DAC "hubs."

  • Occidental Petroleum — the petro-player most involved in DAC — leads one of them.

Catch up fast: Oil giants have already been making investments and working with DAC startups in recent years.

  • Chevron's an investor in Carbon Engineering, which is part of the Occidental-led consortium.
  • Shell, Equinor and Repsol are backing DAC startup RepAir.

Quick take: Big oil's DAC-curiosity dovetails with its longstanding work on carbon capture and sequestration.

  • Chevron, in response to an Axios inquiry, noted it has deep experience with big projects and subsurface expertise.

Yes, but: Some environmentalists oppose DAC.

  • It "allows polluting industries to live on when we should be focusing on a just transition to renewables," Marion Gee, co-executive director of the Climate Justice Alliance, said after DOE's funding announcements Friday.

The bottom line: It's still early days, but Big Oil wants to reserve a seat in case DAC truly takes off.

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