Carbon Capture: Getting Hot to Keep Cool

Johnny Wentzel
Two men in front of a carbon capture facility
Courtesy of smithsonianmag.com

A Houston-based renewable energy company is looking to double-down on its tech by also removing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. It’s what people in the the biz call a twofer.

What happened: Geothermal energy company Fervo Energy recently announced plans implement a direct air capture (DAC) plant at one of their geothermal sites in as soon as three years.

DAC is process of removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere by using fit-for-purpose fans and filters to separate out the carbon dioxide from ambient air so it can be stored deep underground.

  • If carbon emissions were like spilled chili in The Office, DAC would be the clipboard Kevin uses to scoop it back into the pot.

2-for-1 climate tech

The key drawback to DAC is that it needs a lot of energy to be effective. It also requires that the DAC plants are powered by renewable sources or else they produce emissions faster than they can capture them.

Enter geothermal: Given DAC’s requirements for consistent renewable energy and high temperatures, Fervo believes that geothermal energy is the perfect power—and heat—source for DAC projects.

  • The largest DAC plant in the world is already coupled with geothermal energy in Iceland and removes about 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually.

Zoom out: Despite the advancements in DAC tech, it’s estimated that US may need to remove nearly 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year in order to meet the net-zero emissions goal by 2050. The scale of geothermal DAC projects will need to significantly increase to start putting the chili back in the pot when it comes to climate change.