Carbon capture has been attracting more and more interest from investors and governments lately, as concerns over climate change become stronger. The technology has been around for decades but it hasn’t been able to deliver on its promise. Now, a new breed of carbon capture companies is emerging and hopes to bridge the gap between the ongoing energy transition and the world’s reliance on hard-to-abate industries like oil and gas.
- How Carbon Capture Companies Can Help The World Manage Emissions?
- Economics And Main Goals
- 1. Aker Carbon Capture
- 2. Climeworks
- 3. Carbon Engineering
- 4. Carbfix
- 5. LanzaTech
- 6. Carbon Clean
- 7. CarbonFree
- 8. CO2 Capsol
- 9. Svante
- 10. CarbonBuilt
In this article we’ve picked ten of these leading companies, but it wasn’t an easy choice. There are now dozens of companies in the emerging carbon industry and you’ll be able to follow their development on Carbon Herald. Whether it’s industrial carbon capture, direct air capture, enhanced weathering, carbon farming, or using biomass and the oceans, you’ll find them here.
Why Do We Need Technologies That Remove Carbon?
As the majority of scientists around the world now agree, it is indisputable that the planet has been warming at a constant pace since the Industrial Revolution. According to data from the World Meteorological Organization, the average global temperature in 2021 was about 1.11 °C above pre-industrial (1850-1900) levels and 2021 is the seventh consecutive year (2015-2021) where the global atmospheric temperature has been over 1°C compared to the 1850s levels.
Another fact among scientists is that the measured warming of the planet is caused by the human population. In total, people have emitted around 2,500 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere since 1850. Thanks to the greenhouse effect, those unnatural high levels of emissions are trapping heat that is warming the planet and interfering with its atmospheric balance.
According to the Paris Agreement, human’s goal this century is to limit global warming below 1.5 °C of heating. As data shows, the remaining carbon we are allowed to emit to stay below that limit is less than 400 gigatons.
What Do We Need To Do To Tackle Emissions?
Currently, the annual global carbon footprint is around 50 billion tons of CO2 equivalent emissions which means we have 8 years left until we spend our carbon budget if today’s levels of releasing emissions are kept. The solution to this problem is starting immediately carbon reduction at a gradual pace and taking out the historically built-up CO2 from the atmosphere.
According to estimates from the National Academy of Sciences, to meet the Paris Agreement goal, the world would have to take out 1300 gigatons of CO2 by the end of the century. 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide will have to be removed globally each year through 2050, with 20 gigatons of CO2 removed annually from 2050 to 2100.
Since the world is still reliant on fossil fuels and there is a major political push from oil-producing countries around the world to keep them, the phasing out, unfortunately, will likely continue to happen slower than the pace needed to stay below the 1.5°C degrees of warming limit. Some acceleration of clean energy adoption though is expected during the decade before 2050.
How Carbon Capture Companies Can Help The World Manage Emissions?
Keeping all that in mind, the economy generating no emissions still seems far-off in the future. A technology called carbon capture is being touted as a way to get us into the future faster. It represents capturing carbon dioxide before it enters the atmosphere, transporting it, and storing it underground safely for centuries or millennia.
The carbon capture’s goal is to prevent the release of CO2 from heavy industries like power plants, chemical plants, or a cement kilns. Another carbon capture technology called direct air capture is handling historic emissions, vacuuming carbon directly from the atmosphere. It has been attracting major investors’ interest that have piled money into it.
Carbon capture has been around since the 1920s when CO2 sometimes found in natural gas reservoirs was separated from the saleable methane gas. In the 1970s the idea was born to use captured CO2 from the point of source to be piped in oil fields to boost oil production – a process known as enhanced oil recovery.
In 1997, the world’s first offshore carbon capture facility that permanently stored emissions underground was commissioned. It is called the Sleipner CCS plant owned by Equinor and located in Norway. The facility is also the longest in operation in the world. Since then more and more projects for permanent storage have appeared, even though the majority (more than 90%) of all carbon capture initiatives being built are used for enhanced oil recovery.
The carbon capture companies focused on true decarbonization and permanent CO2 removal and storage could transform the industry as we know it today. As they develop viable business models apart from using the technology for enhanced oil recovery, the industry could start supporting more projects dedicated to permanent storage.
Economics And Main Goals
The reason for that is economics – carbon capture is still a very expensive technology and utilizing it to boost oil production generates a revenue stream that provides a rationale for the investment. As Equinor recently announced, the waves are turning. The oil and gas major predicted that the carbon capture technology would break even in the next 10 years.
Currently, the cost of capturing carbon is larger than the cost of emitting carbon. However, the current price of the EU Carbon Permit is now at the record high level of 92 euros ($101) per ton of CO2 while according to EIA, capturing carbon costs as much as $120 a ton in cement production and power generation. The statistics show the gap between the cost of carbon captured and emitted is closing much faster than previously thought.
Furthermore, as it is improving and scaling up, in 2021 the total capacity of the CCS project pipeline increased for the fourth year in a row, by almost one-third over 2021 alone. According to the Global CCS Institute, there are now 135 commercial CCS facilities in the project pipeline (27 of them fully operational) from a diverse range of sectors including cement, steel, hydrogen, power generation and direct air capture. Тhe main goal of these projects remains reducing emissions released during operation of the facility and tackling historically built emissions.
Industry experts also agree that the carbon capture technology cannot be used on its own to achieve decarbonization of the world, but rather it will complement clean energy techs like renewables and hydrogen. It could play a key role in cutting the emissions of heavy industries like fossil fuel power generation until green energy alternatives leap barriers like achieving the reliability of fossil fuel on-demand energy production and become widely available to take over the grid.
Some of the largest most popular carbon capture companies driving the large-scale adoption of the technology are mentioned below. These carbon capture companies also own the best technology out there used to reduce carbon emissions from sources of emissions, or tackle the problem of historical carbon emissions that are already in our atmosphere. Some of them are pioneers in the carbon capture space, others are innovating technologies that are expected to accelerate its large-scale adoption.
Aker Carbon Capture
Aker Carbon Capture is one of the few and largest publicly traded pure-play carbon capture companies. It is headquartered in Norway with representation in several Northern European countries and a global reach through the Aker group. Aker Carbon Capture ACC was listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange in August 2020. In March 2021, shares of Aker Carbon Capture ASA (OTCQX:AKCCF) became traded as part of a regulated electronic over-the-counter service offered by the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) in the US. The company is currently mid-cap with a market capitalization of 1.33 billion.
Even though the carbon capture unit of Aker is newly found, the technology is mature and carries 20 years of Aker Solutions’ carbon capture experience, experts, and project references. 55% of the company is owned by Aker Horizons, a “planet-positive” investment company and part of the multinational Aker Group. The unit of Aker Group – Aker Solutions, is a leading engineering, procurement and construction company and has been a player in the carbon capture space for decades now. Since the 1990s, it has pioneered engineering projects in carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) and possesses a strong experience across the carbon value chain – from front end to engineering, construction, installation and maintenance.
It has a long list of contracts including the carbon capture facility at Norcem’s cement plant in Brevik, Norway and the flagship Northern Lights carbon capture and storage initiative. Apart from providing carbon capture installations for small and large facilities (for up to 400,000 tons per year of CO2 emissions capacity and above), the company also offers Carbon Capture as a Service.
That involves the customer paying per ton of CO2 captured and the installation is financed by project finance investors, including Aker Horizons. The business offers a high value to customers. The Aker carbon capture stock is also considered a pure-play one-way bet on the carbon capture industry’s growth.
Climeworks is a Swiss company, providing a solution for tackling historic emissions called direct air capture. The company uses a technology that consists of modular CO2 collectors stacked to build machines of any size. The industrial machine’s fans draw air into the plant, where a highly selective new filter material known as sorbent binds the CO2 in conjunction with the moisture in the air.
When the filter gets saturated with CO2, it is heated at 100°C (212°F) which releases the concentrated CO2 gas. Then it could be sequestered or sold to the industry for fizzy drinks, food and any kind of materials production. The technology is flexible and uses a small amount of energy to power the capture and control processes. The direct air capture machines are powered solely by renewable energy or energy-from-waste.
Climeworks partners with another carbon capture innovator – Carbfix, that uses the CO2 captured to store it permanently underground. Carbfix mixes the CO2 with water and pumps it deep below the ground where a chemical process turns it into solid rock. The technology prevents the probability of emissions escaping into the air.
Climeworks also launched its flagship facility for direct air capture and storage called Orca in September 2021. It is the only direct air capture project that permanently disposes of the CO2 instead of recycling it or selling it. It captures around 4,000 tons of CO2 per year and using Carbfix’s technology, those emissions are permanently sequestered.
The company still has a long way to go to reach its original goal of capturing 1% of annual global CO2 emissions. The company is now targeting removing 500,000 tons by the end of the decade. It charges individuals who purchase carbon offsets up to $1,200 per ton of CO2 and around $600 per ton for bulk purchases. It aims for costs to come down to $200 – $300 a ton by 2030, and $100 to $200 by 2035 when its operations are at full scale. Climeworks seems like one of the best carbon capture companies to bet on due to its permanent CO2 capture and removal business model as it is obvious it focuses on achieving true decarbonization.
Another company that takes out CO2 from ambient air is the Canadian direct air capture company Carbon Engineering. Its technology is industrial direct air capture machines that pull air from fans and push it through a plastic mesh coated with a potassium hydroxide solution that binds with the CO2. The gas goes through a series of chemical processes that concentrate and compress it into tiny white pellets, which are then heated to 900 °C to release the gas.
It is one of the carbon capture companies that focus on the commercialization and large-scale adoption of the direct air capture technology. It is building a large-scale facility in Texas with partner 1PointFive – a joint venture of Occidental Petroleum. When the plant starts operations in 2024, it is expected to take away 1 million tons of CO2 per year.
However, unlike Climeworks that stores the emissions from its plant underground, Carbon Engineering’s captured CO2 will be used in Occidental’s oil wells for enhanced oil recovery. Carbon Engineering’s pilot plant in British Columbia, also captures CO2 from ambient air and combines it with hydrogen to produce synthetic crude oil.
Carbfix is a carbon storage company that has developed an entirely novel approach to CO2 sequestration. The company’s technology stores CO2 and other gasses from emissions permanently as rocks. CO2 charged water is injected into the basalts to promote the carbonization of CO2. The dissolution of CO2 into the aqueous phase facilitates the mineralization of CO2. It has been demonstrated that over 95% of CO2 captured and injected was turned into a rock in the subsurface in less than two years.
It is one of the carbon capture companies which technology differs from the others as it is trapping carbon by accelerating the transformation of CO2 into stable carbonate minerals as rapidly as possible. As the CO2 is stable when it turns into a mineral, there is little need for further monitoring, so one can just walk away from the storage site which saves costs.
Carbfix has been working with Climeworks since 2017. At the pilot demonstration at Hellisheidi geothermal power plant in Iceland – part of the EU-funded Carbfix2 project, the technology is used as a permanent and safe storage solution.
LanzaTech is one of the innovative carbon capture companies that focuses on CO2 recycling. It is using a gas fermentation process, in which CO2 is used as food for bacteria that produce fuels and chemicals. The company uses captured emissions from the source to make different products. Since the fermentation process is flexible, it enables LanzaTech to take different gas streams and make different products.
In contrast, other technologies typically focus on one gas stream, which usually has to be very pure, and that limits them in the number of products they can make. The company is working with partners like Unilever, Mibelle, L’Oréal, Lululemon, Zara and COTY to bring packaging, clothing, perfume, laundry detergent and household cleaners into customers’ homes.
Carbon Clean is a London-based company, founded in 2009 with offices in India, Spain, and the US. The company is offering carbon capture installations for industrial emitters that aim to serve both large and small facilities. In 2021, the company launched CycloneCC – a breakthrough combination of two proven technologies – Carbon Clean’s advanced, amine-promoted buffer salt solvent (APBS-CDRMax®) and a process technology.
They make sure CycloneCC is far more efficient than conventional carbon capture methods while also reducing costs. The process is able to achieve 90%+ capture rates. It is also the smallest solution of the company – it captures up to 300 tons of CO2 per day. According to Carbon Clean the plant can capture CO2 for $30 or less per metric ton.
The CycloneCC unit can be delivered ready to install and become fully operational in less than eight weeks. It is considered revolutionary as it addresses two of the technology’s largest obstacles – scalability and cost. As the design allows clients to add units, the modules are scalable and due to its efficiency, it is low in cost.
CarbonFree is one of the carbon capture companies with an ambitious mission, to capture 10% of industrial CO2, currently standing at 800 million tons per year. The company’s offering is called SkyCycle and provides a complete carbon capture utilization and storage solution. The technology captures the CO2 emitted by industrial plants and mineralizes it to create valuable low-carbon materials.
The company also uses another process called SkyMine® that has been capturing carbon and converting it to baking soda at an industrial cement plant in Texas. The facility has been operating since 2015 and is the world’s first and largest industrial-scale carbon mineralization plant. The baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) the company produces is also available for purchase on Amazon.
CO2 Capsol is a carbon capture technology company founded in 2014 with the goal of becoming a global leader in capturing CO2 from Waste-to-Energy (WtE), cement, biomass, power plants and industrial facilities. The main patented technology of the company is Capsol EoP (End of Pipe) solution. It utilizes a proven solvent Hot Potassium Carbonate (HPC) that is inexpensive and non-toxic.
The technology is also cost competitive due to its patented energy recirculation which significantly reduces energy loss in the CO2 capture process. It is also scalable as a single unit Capsol EoP can process flue gas from plants with emissions of up to 2.5 million tons per year. The full cycle costs (opex and capex) come down to $30-$37 per ton of CO2 which according to the company is cheaper than traditional technologies in the range of $43-$70 per ton.
The installation takes between 18 and 24 months from planning to commissioning. It is one of the carbon capture companies growing a long list of contracts and partnerships, the latest one including a collaboration with Hitachi Zosen Inova to install CO2 Capsol’s carbon-capture technology at waste-to-energy plants.
Svante is a company founded in 2007 and focused on providing the best possible solution for industrial emitters and unlocking a mass market for bulk carbon dioxide capture installations. The company claims it is using a second-generation carbon capture technology at half the cost of solvent-based systems.
It is participating in the CO2 recycling market by stimulating new ways to create products and processes that recycle and sequester carbon dioxide. What makes Svante’s carbon capture technology stand out is its capability to capture the CO2 from flue gas, concentrate it, then release it for storage or industrial use in 60 seconds. That is compared to hours with traditional technologies.
The company is using tailor-made nano-materials – solid adsorbents, with very high storage capacity for CO2, engineered to catch and release CO2 in less than 60 seconds. As a result, Svante needs a much smaller inventory of adsorbents relative to other technologies using a liquid solvent.
The company has also estimated a single capture unit taking out 1 million tons of CO2 a year would cost $2 trillion for 10,000 of such units. They would allow Svante’s industrial customers to capture and sequester or utilize 10 gigatons of emissions per year which suits ideally global net zero targets.
CarbonBuilt is a carbon utilization company that came up with a new innovation for directly injecting CO2 from flue gas streams of emitters into concrete production. The process does not require expensive capture, compression, or CO2 separation as it feeds emissions directly into the concrete curing process and thus locks them permanently in the concrete.
The process is flexible and enables the use of a wide range of CO2-containing streams ranging from point of source or distributed emissions. CarbonBuilt’s technology achieves several groundbreaking innovations – reduces the consumption of cement, reduces cement emissions by at least 60% compared to the traditional cement, and achieves more flexible use of waste materials like fly ash or slag. The technology is called ReversaTM and won the 2021 NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.
The world is faced with one of the biggest challenges it has ever had – the need to urgently remove around 1300 gigatons of historically built emissions in the atmosphere and transition to a net zero economy. Replacing fossil fuel energy generation with renewables and hydrogen energy seems like the ideal solution, however, it will take decades for the infrastructure and power capacities to be made available worldwide. While the world is transitioning towards clean energies, carbon capture technologies could facilitate the process and take their key role in reducing the flow of current emissions.
Other carbon capture companies worth mentioning are CarbonCapture Inc and Charm Industrial. They are working to reverse climate change by making direct air capture machines or delivering permanent carbon removal to households and businesses respectively. These 12 carbon capture companies could definitely speed up the race towards decarbonization and unlock the potential of carbon removal, storage, and utilization.