The University of North Dakota’s Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) has been granted $12.5 million by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to fund the Prairie Compass Direct Air Capture (DAC) Hub. In its initial phase, the project will conduct an engineering study to assess the feasibility of scaling DAC technology in North Dakota. The team will also analyze the potential job creation opportunities and economic prospects associated with the Prairie Compass DAC Hub.
Direct air capture is a carbon removal method that extracts carbon directly from the atmosphere. Climeworks is the first company to introduce DAC technology coupled with permanent underground storage (DAC+S) of the captured CO2. Their commercial DAC+S site Orca, which operates in Iceland, is the world’s largest and only such commercial facility.
The Prairie Compass DAC Hub will integrate Climeworks’ DAC technology with approved geologic CO2 storage facilities in North Dakota. This project aims to showcase commercially viable DAC with storage, aligning with the DOE’s Carbon Negative Shot objective. The initial study will concentrate on the Minnkota Power Cooperative’s authorized CO2 storage site near Center, North Dakota, while also exploring the possibility of Minnkota providing support services for the project. Should the first phase prove successful, the Prairie Compass DAC Hub could seek further DOE funding to facilitate DAC+S deployment, targeting the annual capture and storage of 1 million metric tons of carbon by 2030—equivalent to removing around 200,000 cars from the road yearly.
“Direct air capture technologies have the potential to be a key piece of the puzzle in building a low-carbon economy in North Dakota while helping to create good-paying jobs in construction and operations for communities hosting DAC projects,” said Charles Gorecki, EERC CEO. “Our collaboration with Climeworks, as a global leader in direct air capture, continues the EERC’s legacy of being on the forefront of low-carbon technology innovation.”
If the project progresses to the next phase, the Prairie Compass DAC Hub will establish an advanced commercial-scale DAC infrastructure. This setup will operate within the diverse annual temperature range characteristic of North Dakota, showcasing an unprecedented scale of carbon removal. Emphasizing community involvement and workforce development, the project could guide the development of future DAC+S facilities.