CDR.fyi Releases Its 2023 Year In Review Highlighting Major Trends In Carbon Removal

CDR.fyi Releases Its 2023 Year In Review Highlighting Major Trends In Carbon Removal - Carbon Herald

Durable carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is well on track to reach 3 gigatons per year in cumulative removals by 2040, according to the 2023 Year in Review analysis by CDR.fyi, digging deep into the sector. 

The analysis examines major trends and activities over the last few years to answer some critical questions about the CDR industry such as: how fast would durable CDR need to grow for the world to meet midcentury net zero needs; what is the amount of durable carbon removals by 2050 that the world would need; are we on track to reach that amount by 2050.

Some key market trends stand out and are pointing towards an incredible growth potential in the sector. Carbon removal deliveries have been growing from 0.009 Mt tonnes in 2020 from a handful of suppliers, to 0.1Mt delivered and 4.5Mt purchases in 2023 with hundreds of companies entering the market and testing out dozens of removal technologies. The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of deliveries from 2020 till 2023 comes to 140%, according to CDR.fyi.

Credit: CDR.fyi

Carbon removal purchases grew from 20.7 kilotonnes in 2020, 105.8 kilotonnes in 2021, 614.9 kilotonnes in 2022, to 4.5 million tonnes in 2023 which represents a CAGR of ~500% for the period. The number of purchasers also increased from 54 in 2021 to 188 in 2023, which are mostly companies coming from the financial services (27%) and the software and services (21%) sectors. 

The carbon removal methods that saw the largest purchases in 2023 were:

  • BECCS – driven mostly by a single deal between Microsoft and Ørsted where Microsoft agreed to purchase 2.67 million tonnes of durable carbon removal from Ørsted over 11 years. The agreement marks the most significant share of CDR purchases for the Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) method, which dominates with 64% of the total.
  • DAC – direct air capture represented the second-largest method at 19% driven by agreements such as Heirloom-Microsoft for 315,000 tonnes of CDR from direct air capture, 1PointFive-Amazon for 250,000 tonnes of CO2 over a 10 year period, and Climeworks-BSG for 80,000 tonnes of CO2. 
  • All Other – some other methods’ share of total purchases are as follows: Biochar – 6%, Bio-oil and Enhanced Weathering were at 3%, and Electrochemical ocean CO2 capture held the smallest share at 1%. The other 2% is made up of Biomass Removal (0.66%), Microalgae (0.04%), and Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement (0.02%).

Relevant: CDR.fyi Releases Carbon Removal Buyers And Suppliers Surveys’ Results

Carbon removal deliveries, however, tell a completely different story in terms of methodology. The largest share of carbon removal deliveries in 2023 was made by biochar with the staggering 92.9% of all durable CDR deliveries. Biomass Removal (4.1%), Mineralization (1.3%), Bio-oil (1.3%), Enhanced Weathering (0.2%), and DAC (0.1%) represent the remainder of carbon removal methods that realized the deliveries.

CDR.fyi’s report makes a reference to the 500% annual growth for purchases which is an incredible story but still not unusual for a nascent sector. It is however, not likely to continue for many years. Even though the number of carbon removal buyers are increasing every year, an exponential growth of buyers over the next 10-15 years is needed to maintain the trajectory. 

Credit: CDR.fyi

Currently, there are only 6 buyers that purchased over 100,000 tonnes and 14 that bought at least 10,000 tonnes. The numbers of large buyers need to increase to a few hundred additional such entering the market in the coming years for the world to stay on track to meet durable CDR targets by midcentury.

The analysis also looks into how much durable CDR we need by 2050. The IPCC models show that 6-10 gigatonnes (Gt) of CDR is necessary in the second half of this century, however, the number is a mix of what is needed to reach net zero and what would be needed to bring temperatures back down to 1.5C after we have achieved net zero. It is also a mix of durable CDR and shorter-term removals such as forests and some types of soil carbon removals. 

Relevant: New Study Shows Reforestation And Protecting Current Forests Could Store 226GT Of CO2

To determine the quantity of durable CDR only, CDR.fyi highlights results from its CDR Calculator along with the SBTi pathways. The models show that the needed scale of durable carbon removals is around 4 Gt by 2050 which is equal to approximately 10% of total annual CO2 emissions today.

With a reference to another study determining the durable CDR quantities, it is suggested that at least around 3 Gt of CO2 will have to be cumulatively removed between 2020 to 2040 for annual CDR capacity to be able to reach 4-5 Gt annually in the 2050s.

Current growth rates of the sector show we are on track to meet those targets, however, the analysis concludes that if novel CDR does not reach 10s of millions of tonnes of CO2 removed per year by 2030, the target remains far behind.

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