New Study Places Future Direct Air Capture Costs In A $230 – $540 Range

New Study Places Future Direct Air Capture Costs At A $230 - 540$ Range - Carbon Herald
Image: Graphical abstract from “Considering technology characteristics to project future costs of direct air capture. Authors: Katrin Sievert, Tobias S. Schmidt and Bjarne Steffen.” DOI

As direct air capture technologies are slowly reaching economies of scale, their costs are also expected to drop down significantly from current levels ($600-$1,000). A new research, however, is shedding light on how much realistically direct air capture costs are likely to fall. The figure also opposes to what some stakeholders in the industry are expecting. 

The research published on March 1st is called Considering technology characteristics to project future costs of direct air capture and is authorted by Katrin Sievert, Tobias Schmidt, and Bjarne Steffen of the ETH Zürich and the Institute for Science, Technology and Policy. 

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The researchers suggest the cost of a ton of captured CO2 via DAC technologies could likely fall in the range of $230 – $540 rather than the often cited optimistic figure of $100 – $300 even below $100 in some cases. 

The estimates are based on cost forecasts on the individual components of the different DAC systems. According to Tech Xplore, the researchers have estimated the costs of each component one by one. They also asked 30 industry experts to assess the design complexity of each technological component and determine how easy it would be to standardize.

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Estimating the future costs of direct air capture is particularly difficult as very little empirical information is available and the industry lacks real-world data. Therefore, costs are based on certain assumptions such as the cost of less complex components that can be mass-produced is likely to fall more sharply, while the cost of complex parts that must be tailored to each individual system will likely fall slowly. 

More mature components like compressors that are part of a DAC system cannot feasibly be made much cheaper. The estimated cost of each individual part is also added to the cost of integrating all the components, the energy costs and the costs of operations. 

The methodology is applied to estimate the costs of three DAC technologies combined with CO2 transport and storage (DACCS) providing probabilistic estimates of the cost of CO2 net removal. At 1 Gt-CO2/year cumulative capacity, DACCS costs for liquid solvent systems (Carbon Engineering approach) are estimated to come at $341/tCO2 ($226–$544 at 90% confidence), $374/tCO2 ($281–$579) for solid sorbent DACCS (Climeworks approach), and $371/tCO2 ($230–$835) for CaO ambient weathering DACCS (Heirloom approach).

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