Climate change mitigation is a responsibility of the world today that has allowed for excess greenhouse gas emissions to amount in the atmosphere and start changing the climate. The way the economy is built today results in negative consequences for our environment which cause ever-mounting problems.
Scientists have now recorded the eight warmest years on record since 2014 and data shows that if humanity continues to emit greenhouse gases in ambient air at the current rate, the planet’s average temperature could get up to 5.4°C warmer by 2100. That would have a detrimental impact on life on Earth.
As science is clear about the consequences and we have already reached a 1.1°C warming of the planet compared to pre-industrial times, the world is working on rebuilding the economy. Our world needs to operate on clean energy so that economic growth doesn’t come at the expense of health and well-being of life on Earth. It is also developing processes and technologies to remove the access carbon dioxide that has piled up in the atmosphere throughout the years.
Direct air capture is one of many available climate change mitigation approaches that can help significantly remove emissions from the air. It is an engineered technology that uses chemical or physical processes to extract carbon dioxide directly from ambient air.
If the captured CO2 is then sequestered in safe long-term storage, the process is known as direct air carbon capture and sequestration (DACCS), and if the CO2 is used by the industry as a feedstock for the production of other materials of value, the process is known as direct air capture and utilization.
DACCS is a preferred method of tackling excess CO2 emissions as the overall process will achieve carbon dioxide removal and be a “negative emissions technology” (NET). The industry is still nascent but there are a number of direct air capture companies that have been working on advancing DAC technology since the 2000s.
According to the IEA, there are currently 18 direct air capture plants in operation worldwide, all of them demonstration pilots that are capturing almost 11,000 tons of CO2/year. There is a number of announced projects under development, each with a capacity of capturing over 1 million tons of CO2/year. In IEA’s 2050 net-zero scenario, DAC is scaled to capture more than 93 million tons of CO2 a year by 2030 and 1.08 gigatons of CO2 annually by 2050.
Our list of 20 direct air capture companies represents the top players in the sector with many more expected to enter the space to help scale the technology worldwide. We originally planned to write a top 10 but there are too many companies that deserve to be included at this point and we found it hard to limit ourselves to 20.
They are listed in alphabetic order, as its hard to find an objective metric that determines how a project compares to others. The only differentiator that made sense was whether they have already launched a pilot plant or not. But with but most of them not in the commercial stage and focused on R&D or a coming up with their pilot demonstrations plants we decided that an alphabetic list is the best way to present them.
- CarbonCapture Inc
- Carbon Engineering
- Carbon Collect Limited
- Fervo Energy
- Global Thermostat
- Mission Zero Technologies
- RepAir Carbon Capture
- Soletair Power
AirCapture was founded in 2019 by CEO Matt Attwood and Head of Commercialization Bob Wilson. The company’s approach to direct air capture uses modular, on-site systems that directly provide CO2 to the production lines of customers.
At the moment, the target market is mainly in the food and beverage processing industry where the gas is already being used. But AirCapture is also set to pursue the “Carbon to Value” markets, where carbon dioxide has even broader applicability and demand could be significantly higher. Products in this market range from chemicals, plastics, rubber and carbon fiber to synthetic fuels.
One example of these markets is the DAC system the company will add to Nutrien’s Kennewick Fertilizer Operations facility and convert the CO2 to value-added chemicals. Supported by a $2.93 million grant from the DOE, this is a practical example of a 2-in-1 carbon capture and conversion installation.
Another example is the company’s partnership with ultra-low CO2 concrete tech developer Carbonbuilt and concrete products manufacturer Blok-Lite. The facility the partners will construct is developed under the 4 Corners Carbon Coalition initiative and will be located in Flagstaff, Arizona. The project is expected to avoid between 2,000-3,000 tons of carbon emissions and remove 500 tons of atmospheric CO2 every year per production line.
Capture6 has developed direct carbon air capture technology that uses input sources like seawater and is primarily focused on water treatment sites.
Founded in 2021 by CEO Ethan Cohen-Cole and President Luke Shors, the company is based in Berkeley, California but already has a global reach.
Using the already available infrastructure at desalination plants and water recovery systems, the company uses a simplified DAC version to convert carbon dioxide into carbonates. It also uses excess salty water (which is usually returned to the ocean) to create its CO2 removing solvent. This allows for the recovery of up to 70% of the water treatment reject, creating value both in terms of carbon removal as well as water availability.
A test site in California will also be developed after an MoU was signed with Palmdale Water District (PWD) in April, 2023. The Pure Water Antelope Valley Demonstration Facility will show how well the expected synergy between PWD and Capture6 will work, as the former needs to dispose of brine, while the latter needs it for its CO2 capture technology.
CarbonCapture Inc’s approach to direct air capture relies on technology that utilizes innovative molecular sieves, low-cost renewable energy, and tunable purpose-built systems.
It was founded in 2019 by William T Gross and Andrea Pedretti and experienced industry professional Adrian Corless leads the company as CEO.
In October, 2022 it closed a $35 million Series A funding round helping it progress rapidly through the initial development phases and is already working on its own facility in Wyoming.
It’s called Project Bison and is set to become the largest direct air capture plant with a target of capturing and storing five million tons of CO2 per annum by 2030. It’s set to become operational in 2023 with a removal capacity of 12,000 tons, to be increased to 200,000 by 2026.
Relying on renewable energy, the company’s DAC machines use a solid sorbent technology in a cyclic process that filters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. After that it will be directly injected into Class VI wells located nearby.
The abundance of suitable geological formations in Wyoming is one of the reasons CarbonCapture decided to set up a shop there. The state is known for its oil industry but it could see a revival as a CO2 hotspot with its 116 gigatons of estimated storage capacity in saline reservoirs.
The company recently announced an advance purchase agreement with Microsoft which Adrian Corless described as: “Validation of CarbonCapture’s scalable approach to DAC from a forward-thinking company.. [and] is an important signal to the entire market, demonstrating the value of high-quality carbon removal credits.”
One of the direct air capture companies a leader in the technology’s development is Carbon Engineering – a Canadian company founded in 2009 with the goal of commercializing affordable and highly scalable carbon removal technology.
Carbon Engineering’s technology works by drawing large volumes of air into a filter system where CO2 is absorbed into a liquid solution of potassium hydroxide. The solution is then distilled down to sand-grain-sized pellets of calcium carbonate. The pellets are then superheated to 900° C to produce pure carbon dioxide gas.
In the Air To Fuel process that can be incorporated into the DAC plant, the CO2 is used to produce synthetic crude that can then be processed into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. They can work in existing vehicles and transportation infrastructure without any modifications. The technology involves electricity used to split water (by electrolysis) and manufacture hydrogen, which is then combined with captured atmospheric CO2 to form fuels.
The company launched its first pilot in 2015, located in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada. The facility captures roughly 1 ton of atmospheric CO2 per day. In 2017, the company incorporated fuel synthesis capability into the DAC pilot plant and converted CO2 into fuel for the first time in December 2017.
Carbon Engineering announced its first mega-scale projects in partnership with Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) and 1PointFive on the construction of a massive DAC plant in the Texas Permian Basin with a capacity to capture 500,000 tons of CO2 per year initially and then scale to 1 million tons of CO2 annually.
Carbon Collect Limited
Carbon Collect is an Ireland-based direct air capture technology company developing artificial trees called MechanicalTrees™. According to the company, the trees are a thousand times more efficient than natural trees at removing CO2 from the air.
The company was originally called Silicon Kingdom Holdings Limited and was founded in 2018. It changed to Carbon Collect Limited in 2021. Carbon Collect Limited possesses the trademarks Carbon Collect™, CarbonCollect™, MechanicalTree™ and MechanicalTrees™.
Carbon Collect’s approach is based on a technology developed by Dr Klaus Lackner and his team at Arizona State University’s Centre for Negative Carbon Emissions. Dr Klaus Lackner was the first scientist globally back in 1999, to suggest that CO2 could be captured from the air to tackle global warming. The MechanicalTrees™ are 10 meters tall and 1.5 meters wide and contain discs of sorbent stacked in columns.
When a column is fully extended, the discs are exposed to air and capture atmospheric CO2. Once full, the discs are then lowered back into the column where the CO2 is extracted and either sequestered or sold for commercial use.
With a relative lifespan of 15 years for each MechanicalTree™, it would be able to capture over 500 tons of CO2. The first MechanicalTree™ is located on the east side of Arizona State University’s main campus, unveiled in 2022. The company plans for mass production and large-scale deployment of the technology.
It wants to deploy tree farms with an annual capacity of up to 4 million tons annually per farm in the second half of the 2020s. Deployment could range from one tree to up to around 120,000 units at maximum configuration.
Founded in 2019, the carbon removal startup has already accomplished much in the short time since its launch. One of Carbyon’s most impressive achievements is becoming a Milestone Award Winner in the XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition.
To become one of 15 winners of the $1 million award, the company was able to demonstrate an effective, scalable approach to direct air capture. What’s more, the technology developed by Carbyon stands out from the rest with its unique cost and energy efficiency. Namely, the company has set out to bring down the cost of technological carbon removals to 50 euros (~$55) per ton of CO2 – twice as less than what is widely considered necessary to scale DAC technology.
Carbyon is based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, where its carbon removal solution was first developed in the Dutch research institute TNO in 2018 by CEO and founder Hans De Neve. He explored the use of thin film technologies for new solar PV materials. Thus, the company’s technology is largely built on years and years of semiconductor technology developments.
Neve said about the process of developing his solution: “Having the idea is great, but it took a great deal of irrational optimism to really get it done!”
Climeworks is one of the pioneers and most advanced companies in the direct air capture space. It was founded by Christoph Gebald and Jan Wurzbacher in November 2009. The company develops large-scale direct air capture plants based on a modular system of CO2 collectors.
The collectors, each the size of a small car, can be configured to create a plant of any size that extracts CO2 from air. The technology works as air is drawn in through a fan located inside the collector. The air passes through a filter located inside the collector which traps the carbon dioxide particles. When the filter is full of CO2, the collector closes, and the temperature rises to about 100°C which causes the filter to release the CO2 that is collected.
It is one of the companies that combine its direct air capture technology with permanent underground storage. The storage technology is developed by Carbfix – an Icelandic company that turns the CO2 into stone underground. This DACCS methodology ensures permanent and durable storage of CO2 deep under the ground.
In May 2017, the company opened the world’s first commercial project to filter CO2 from the ambient air in Hinwil. In October 2017, a demo project followed, used at the Hellisheiði Power Station in Iceland. In September 2021, Climeworks’s Orca carbon capture plant came online which is the largest direct air capture facility in the world, capturing 4,000 metric tons of CO2 per year.
Larger plant “Mammoth” was announced in 2022 that will capture 36,000 metric tons a year upon completion in 2024. The company’s goal is to scale direct air capture installations globally and achieve gigaton removal capacity annually. It is now working to attract partnerships and DAC credits pre-purchases to develop plant capacity.
CO2Rail is on a mission to utilize existing railway infrastructure for the benefit of the planet. The US-based startup has come up with a revolutionary way to capture CO2 from the atmosphere by equipping trains with DAC units. The company’s unique carbon removal solution revolves around its regenerative braking system, which converts excess heat energy from the train’s operations into electricity.
In turn, the generated power is stored in a 2,400 kWh battery located under the rail car. This then leads to another genuinely revolutionary concept of CO2Rail, namely making use of a train’s natural speed to completely circumvent the reliance on fans used in conventional DAC plants.
As a result of the train’s movement, air can move through the system at a rate of 15,000 m3 per minute. The CO2 in the air is captured and converted into liquid by liquid-sorbents, after which the liquefied gas is stored in a 15 tons cryogenic storage tank.
The relative simplicity and low initial investment costs of the technology are what have allowed CO2Rail to bring down the cost of captured carbon dioxide to under $50 per ton.
Founded in 2017 by CEO Tim Latimer and CTO Jack Norbeck, Fervo Energy is a fresh addition to the direct air capture industry, as its main expertise is in developing geothermal energy for generating clean power with next-generation geothermal power plants.
Its technology stack includes advanced computational models, horizontal drilling, and distributed fiber optic sensing, placing it among some of the most groundbreaking companies in the geothermal industry.
True to its innovative nature, the company recently announced plans to combine geothermal energy with direct air capture. With DAC needing serious amount of energy and aiming at a carbon negative effect, renewable energy (in this case geothermal) is a prerequisite.
Supported by an investment from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Fervo will design and engineer a fully integrated geothermal and DAC facility.
“Geothermal can deliver the carbon-free power and heat needed to make DAC a viable means for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” said Tim Latimer, CEO of Fervo Energy. “With robust expertise in geosciences and new support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Fervo is well positioned to drive innovation in carbon removal and demonstrate the natural alignment between geothermal and DAC.”
Global Thermostat is one of the veterans in the space, founded in 2006 by Graciela Chichilnisky – a mathematical economist and a professor of economics at Columbia University with expertise in climate change.
The company develops a patented solid adsorption process that uses efficient fans to blow air through proprietary contactors that bind to CO2. Then the gas is separated out with low-temperature heat.
The approach has been refined and tested over the last 10 years to address the primary technical challenges associated with direct air capture which are the ability to process large volumes of air and provide the energy for regeneration as cost-effectively as possible.
Even though the company has started working on the technology since the early days of direct air capture, just this year it unveiled its first commercial-scale demonstration DAC plant with a capacity of capturing over 1,000 tons a year. The unit has been operating since the end of 2022.
According to a Bloomberg research published in 2021, the company has been behind schedule for years and hold back by its CEO Mrs Chichilnisky. Previous attempts to launch several prototypes that were promised have failed even though it is one of the direct air capture companies that has received substantial and continuous investments from the industry.
A new CEO was appointed in 2022 – industry veteran Paul Nahi to help drive the company towards its commercial stage. Currently, it is focused on proving its technology and refining it from its pilot plant.
Mr Nahi brings with him a real experience of building a business from zero to a multi-million revenue company, therefore Global Thermostat is posed to strengthen its business model and develop its technology at scale. The company plans to not build and operate large-scale DAC facilities itself, but rather sell its technology for other companies to do that.
Founded in 2021, Heirloom is one of the direct air capture companies that develop its DAC technology using carbon mineralization in its process. The approach works as it uses crushed limestone that naturally captures CO2 from the atmosphere – a process called carbon mineralization that usually takes years.
The limestone is then heated in a kiln powered by renewable energy to release the captured CO2. The gas can then be stored underground for permanent sequestration. The company also partners with CarbonCure – a concrete producer to utilize the CO2 in concrete production.
The calcium oxide powder that results from the limestone heating is hydrated with water to form calcium hydroxide that is then spread again on large trays to continue with the carbon mineralization process. It takes 3 days for the calcium hydroxide powder to capture CO2 from the air and the process gets repeated.
The company has achieved a breakthrough in carbon mineralization. It has taken the process, which took 4 weeks when it launched and improved it by a factor of 10 which means it now takes 3 days to observe carbonation, unlocking a path to ultra-low cost direct air capture.
The company won the $1 million XPRIZE award in 2022 and raised over $53 million in Series A funding round from AENU, Breakthrough Energy Ventures and other investors to fuel further growth. In 2023, it announced a new partnership with Leilac to incorporate its world-leading electric kiln technology into its direct air capture facilities.
Mission Zero Technologies
Mission Zero Technologies is a direct air capture startup founded amidst the Covid pandemic in 2020. It is a spin-out of Deep Science Ventures – an accelerator working with scientists to build new technologies.
The company captures CO2 from the atmosphere thanks to an ion-selective electrochemical separation process that continuously and efficiently takes CO2 from the air and concentrates it as a pure gas. Its electrochemical separation process is said to consume 3-4 times less energy than existing thermal regeneration approaches. The process leverages existing, scaled and mature technologies such as cooling towers and electrochemical water purification.
The two companies have complementary carbon removal technologies as 44.01 has developed an approach to mineralizing the CO2 gas and thus storing it permanently. The CO2 captured by Mission Zero is dissolved in water and injected into peridotite rock formations underground thanks to the 44.01 storage approach.
So far, the company has raised over $9 million in total funding including grants and a $5 million Seed round from Anglo American and Breakthrough Energy Ventures. The investments will support the delivery of the designed 120 tons/year pilot plant and the subsequent planned first commercial project.
Noya was founded in 2020 by Josh Santos and Daniel Cavero, who are CEO and CTO of the company, with a technological approach focused on capturing CO2 from cooling towers.
With the introduction of the IRA in 2022, the company realized that direct air capture was a better direction for its development and pivoted away from their initial approach while keeping “..that same filter, the same material, the same regeneration process, the same equipment designed, and essentially just add our own fan and deploy it right next to CO2 injection wells,” as Santos shared with TechCrunch.
It recently closed its Series A financing round, with $11 million raised in investment for developing its direct air capture technology and counts Shopify and Watershed among its initial customers.
With backing from a broad line-up of investors like Union Square Ventures, Collaborative Fund and Lowercarbon Capital among others, Noya is now focused on testing and scaling its modular DAC approach.
Removr is a Norwegian direct air capture startup founded in 2022. It is 60% owned by Vanir Green Industries – a Nordic investment company committed to driving the energy transition, and 40% owned by GreenCap Solutions – a Norwegian environmental technology provider of CO2 removal solutions.
Vanir Green Industries has previous experience taking startups from the drawing board to listing on the New York Stock Exchange in a few years. The company’s technology involves removing CO2 from the atmosphere by blowing large amounts of air through a zeolite molecular sieve.
When the zeolite gets saturated with CO2, it is heated to release the CO2 gas. It can then be extracted as a separate CO2 stream and sequestered. The technology has been used for decades in the space industry.
Removr has partnered with Carbfix in 2022 to co-develop a demonstration project for a Direct Air Capture facility in Iceland with a minimum capacity of 300 tons CO2 per year, expected to come online in Q3 2023.
It is one of the direct air capture companies that are ambitious and backed by an experienced team. It aims to launch its first 1 million ton per year facility by 2029.
RepAir Carbon Capture
Israeli direct air capture company RepAir was founded in 2020 and has already raised $10 million in Series A funding only a few months ago to help reduce the energy intensiveness of DAC technology. Energy efficiency is a well-known issue on the way to making direct air capture more commonplace, and RepAir claims to have found a solution for this problem.
The startup says that its technology is 70% more energy-efficient than what can be considered average for tech-based carbon removal with the main reason for this being its ability to operate at ambient temperature.
Furthermore, RepAir’s technology is fully reliant on renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, which is another factor that helps drive the cost of carbon removal down to only $70 per ton of CO2 – still a way below the $100 target mark for the industry.
Another key characteristic of RepAir’s DAC solution is its modularity, which ensures easy scalability and the potential of quickly reaching carbon removal at gigaton scale. CEO and co-founder Amir Shiner believes the latest funding round from some of the world’s biggest drivers of the climate tech revolution to be a major testament to the company’s enormous business potential.
Skytree is a direct air capture company founded in 2010 and headquartered in Amsterdam. It is developing decentralized direct air capture units for applications in indoor farming, building air filtration, water treatment, energy storage, and automotive.
The direct air capture units produce CO2 stream onsite, needed by companies who use CO2 in their processes. Having a direct air capture onsite saves companies time and resources from buying it and transporting it elsewhere. The DAC units can also be used by organizations to achieve carbon neutrality in their operations.
Skytree is a spin-out from the European Space Agency (ESA) with a decade of research and development. During development of a CO2 scrubber, space scientists evaluated over 50 sorbents, and as a result, the company has registered 14 patents, in 5 patent families across US, Europe and China. It is now monetizing the technology through multiple use cases.
In 2022, Skytree announces the launch of its first carbon capture units for indoor farming, deployed at Growy vertical farms in the Netherlands. The technology captures CO2 from the air and supplies it to the crops that grow indoors to increase their productivity.
Soletair Power is a carbon capture technology company that has developed direct air capture devices that reduce buildings emissions, along with other offerings that capture CO2 from the air.
The devices are modular and can be also integrated into buildings with ventilation of 3 m³/s. Each HVAC-integrated DAC unit can capture up to 20 tons of CO2 per year. If building ventilation runtime is controlled by CO2 levels, the system will also help lower the costs of HVAC energy usage.
The company offers three categories of products – indoor CO2 Capture Unit – an indoor CO2 filtering air purifier, a Building Ventilation Integrated CO2 Capture Unit – a direct air capture unit that reduces buildings emissions, and an Outdoor CO2 Capture Unit – it removes CO2 from the air that could be utilized into new products.
It also provides Productive Air as a Service offering for offices – the direct air capture device can be installed by Soletair Power for a service fee of $1- $2 per day per employee so companies do not need to buy the whole system. Soletair Power also offers 99.99% pure CO2 captured directly from the air to its clients.
In 2022, the company delivered one containerized fully operational Outdoor CO2 Capture Unit to ZBT, Germany and in 2023, it will install its HVAC-integrated CO2 capture system inside Wärtsilä STH’s building in Vaasa, Finland.
Soletair Power aims to retrofit commercial buildings around the world and reach an annual capture capacity of 115,000 tons of CO2 by 2026. It is so far the largest distributed DAC solution provider for buildings with indoors and outdoors modules.
Sustaera was founded in 2021 by Shantanu Agarwal and Raghubir Gupta and is headquartered in Cary, North Carolina, US.
Led by CEO Dr. Mary Haas, who joined in August, 2022 from Air Products, the company’s approach relies on readily available natural minerals for its CO2 sorbents and existing supply chains and manufacturing infrastructure.
The company says its design is suitable for any geography and can perform well in different temperatures and levels of humidity, while also consuming less than 100 acres per million of tons of sequestered CO2.
Back in December 2021 it closed a $10 million Series A funding round led by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and billionaire investor Jeremy Grantham.
The startup is among the companies that Shopify has agreed pre-purchase agreements with. In this case the online retail giant has committed to purchasing 5,000 tons of carbon removal with a 2024 delivery.
Another important milestone for the company’s development was winning a $1 million award from the XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition in May, 2022. Sustaera was one of the 15 winners and beat off competition from over 1,100 competitors.
Valiidun Inc is a young direct air company founded in 2022 by the chief development officer of AppHarvest, Seth Norat. The company has closed an angel round of funding with an undisclosed amount. It is backed by founders of unicorn companies that have collectively constructed 8 million square feet of facilities and raised more than $1.5 billion in capital.
According to Valiidun, it is using proven direct air capture technology to bring down in half the cost per ton of decarbonization. It is one of the companies focused on building large-scale direct air capture sites and decreasing operating expenditures through economies of scale.
Valiidun is working to secure a grant to build a DAC facility in Appalachia, a region seeking to revitalize its economy from a long-term dependence on coal mining.
Verdox is one of the new direct air capture companies breaking new ground in the DAC space with its revolutionary approach. The company is founded in 2021 and is a spin-out of MIT. It is also one of the XPRIZE winners of a $1 million award together with its partner Carbfix.
The company uses a different approach to capturing CO2 from the air and then separating it. The traditional approach involves using capture materials for the carbon dioxide and then squeezing it out by applying heat. The process usually uses vast amounts of energy and therefore, is difficult to scale.
Verdox has designed an electric system that allows for gases to flow through with less resistance, making the soaking process more efficient. Instead of taking out the CO2 with heat, it applies a specific voltage to the capture material to release the CO2. The approach uses electricity to release the CO2 and is radically different, far more efficient, and without the need for heat or water.
The company also recently announced it has innovated with a special kind of plastic that can selectively trap carbon dioxide from a mix of gasses, whether in air or from an exhaust, with the help of electricity. The material is far more energy-efficient than existing alternatives and uses at least 70% less energy. It is also better at capturing CO2 than an earlier version that Verdox developed at MIT.
Verdox’s innovation that dramatically reduces the price of capture of CO2 has unlocked investments of a total of $80 million from different investors, including Bill Gates via his Breakthrough Energy Ventures. The company has managed to raise over $100 million in funding in total, posed to accelerate direct air capture to rapidly reduce emissions.