May 22, 2019

A new project to suck CO2 from the sky

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Two companies together have set their sights on Texas oil country for building the world's largest facility for sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, a project that would use the trapped CO2 for boosting oil production.

Driving the news: Carbon Engineering and Occidental Petroleum said Tuesday they're going ahead with engineering and design for a plant in the booming Permian Basin of Texas.

Why it matters: A major UN-led scientific report last year concluded that pathways for holding global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius all require atmospheric carbon removal in addition to steep emissions cuts.

  • Canada-based Carbon Engineering — whose investors include Bill Gates, the venture arms of Occidental and Chevron, and private equity backers — hopes to commercialize a direct air capture (DAC) technology.
  • Occidental, which specializes in using CO2 injections to boost production from oil wells, can use that trapped CO2.

Where it stands: They're weighing plans for an initial plant that would capture around 500 kilotonnes of CO2 annually, and then scale up with additional facilities around twice that size.

  • If the project moves forward, construction of the first plant would likely begin in 2021.
  • One thing helping to make the project possible are expanded tax credits for carbon-trapping projects signed into law last year.

The big picture: If this project indeed moves ahead, it'll be an important move. "This project shows that this technology isn’t 10 or 20 years away," said Erin Burns of Carbon180, a nonprofit that advocates for negative emissions tech.

  • "The first few projects like this are important not just because of the carbon dioxide they’ll pull out of the air, but because they’ll help pave the way for next tens and hundreds of these plants," she said.

The intrigue: Carbon Engineering CEO Steve Oldham told me the plant would cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • He said Carbon Engineering is looking at multiple funding options, including existing investors and other parties. “We have some interested third parties who like the look of the business model,” he added.
  • Carbon Engineering had closed a $68 million financing round earlier this year.

But, but, but: There's a tradeoff in using CO2 for producing oil that's later burned in engines.

  • But Oldham said that the crude produced using the captured CO2 would pencil out to be carbon-neutral or even negative.
  • And, he added, it's a big step toward helping DAC become a tool in fighting global warming.
  • “This is proving the technology to achieve what the [UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] says is utterly necessary,” he said.

Go deeper: What's needed for worldwide CO2 cuts

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 a.m. ET: 664,695 — Total deaths: 30,847 — Total recoveries: 140,156.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 1 a.m. ET: 124,464 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 1,095.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per the CDC, residents of those states must now "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Coronavirus updates: Global death toll tops 30,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 30,000 people around the world — with Italy reporting over 10,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 2,000 on Saturday. The United States leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 124,000 by late Saturday. The number of those recovered from the virus in the U.S. passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health

Trump rules out quarantine in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut after pushback

President Trump on the White House grounds on Saturdya. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Saturday night that he's decided not to introduce quarantine enforcement measures fo New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut, but a "strong" travel advisory will be issued for those states. The CDC later announced domestic travel restrictions for the states.

Why it matters: Trump said hours earlier he was considering quarantine measures to combat the rise in novel coronavirus cases. But he received pushback, notably from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who told CNN such a measure would cause "chaos." "This would be a federal declaration of war on states," Cuomo added.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 hours ago - Health