Storegga Geotechnologies has secured funding from the UK government for its Dreamcatcher direct air capture (DAC) project that will extract carbon dioxide straight from the earth’s atmosphere.

This grant was part of £86 million ($121.6 million) allocated on Monday by UK authorities to decarbonisation projects around the country, out of a dedicated fund of £166.5 million.

Lead developer of the Acorn carbon capture and hydrogen project in Scotland, Storegga was also awarded a £249,000 ($353,000) grant by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy to deploy DAC technology — including storage — in partnership with Canadian player Carbon Engineering.

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Carbon Engineering has a pilot DAC facility in Squamish, British Columbia that has been capturing CO2 since 2015, with the company also deploying the technology at large scale in the US.

Ultra-low-carbon energy sources

The development funded by this grant will focus on optimisation and UK deployment of this proven solution.

Specifically, Storegga and Carbon Engineering will use the funds to research and develop new, ultra-low-carbon energy sources to power the DAC technology.

They will also collaborate on the identification and development of a UK supply chain and roadmap to deploy DAC technology at a cost of potentially less than £200 per tonne of CO2 in the 2020s, said Storegga.

The ultimate goal of the two companies is to build a large-scale DAC plant in the UK within the next five years.

Scouting out locations

This proposed facility would be designed to capture between 500,000 and one million tonnes of atmospheric CO2 each year and then safely and permanently store it deep below the seabed in an offshore geological storage site.

One of the locations being considered by the partnership for this facility is in north-east Scotland, with access to the Acorn CCS and hydrogen project.

Acorn is currently in its detailed engineering and design phase and is due to be operational by the mid-2020s.

DAC technology combined with secure storage, said Storegga, “has the ability to play a key role in the rapid decarbonisation of high-emitting, difficult-to-decarbonise industrial sectors, such as aviation, shipping, agriculture, plus oil and gas".

'Highly scalable'

“It also provides a reliable way to remove CO2 emissions from the past, making it a tool to support not only net-zero targets, but also ambitions to achieve net negative emissions and full climate restoration,” it added.

Storegga said DAC technology is “highly scalable, cost-competitive and can eliminate any CO2 emission at a known cost,” attributes it claims “will be critical as the UK seeks to achieve carbon neutrality while continuing to protect and grow the economy.”

The other partners in the UK project are Storegga subsidiary Pale Blue Dot Energy, Petrofac, Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities plus the Virgin Group.

Nick Cooper, chief executive of Storegga and former oil explorer, said: “We are pleased to have been awarded funding under the DAC and greenhouse gas removal technology innovation programme award, which will enable (us) and our project partners to advance the development of the UK’s, and Europe’s, first large scale DAC facility.”

“The world needs to remove large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere to meet the Paris goals. DAC is a profoundly important tool for this, offering permanent, verifiable carbon removal for both current emitters and for legacy CO2 emissions.”

'Feasible, available, affordable'

Amy Ruddock, Carbon Engineering’s vice president of Europe, added: “We’ve spent the past decade developing a highly scalable and affordable DAC solution so it can play a mainstream role in addressing climate change.

"DAC is a feasible, available and affordable tool that can be added to the net-zero toolkit.”

One key goal of the scheme is to research and develop an alternative to using natural gas to power the ‘calciner’ — a kiln-like technology that breaks apart previously formed calcium carbonate pellets, releasing CO2.

This aim is to run a DAC plant on clean energy only.

A phase-two trial of a low-carbon calciner is pencilled in for 2022 or 2023, leading to the deployment of a large-scale DAC plant by 2026.

UK funding drive

Dreamcatcher is one of the decarbonisation schemes allocated funding as part of the government’s £166.5 million funding package unveiled this week.

Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the “major cash boost — targeted at our most polluting industries — will encourage the rapid development of the technologies we need to reign in our emissions and transition to a green economy, one that reduces costs for business, boosts investment and creates jobs.”

About £37.5 million will fund greenhouse gas removal methods — such as the DAC technology — with 24 projects in England and Wales receiving up to £250,000 each.

Some £60 million will support low carbon hydrogen schemes and scale-up more efficient solutions for making clean hydrogen from water using electricity.

A further five projects will each be handed up to £4.5 million to investigate the viability of adopting greenhouse gas removal methods at scale.

An additional £20 million will support development of next-generation CCS technologies so they can be deployed at scale by 2030, while £20 million will be used to establish a virtual Industrial Decarbonisation Research & Innovation Centre run by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

A £16.5 million Industrial Energy Transformation Fund aims to develop new technologies and processes that help energy-intensive sectors cut their emissions while reducing energy bills.

Some £8 million has been allocated to decarbonise concrete and ceramic industries including the world’s first, high temperature heat pump that can compete commercially with burning fossil fuels.

Finally, £4.7 million has been reserved to set up a Transforming Foundation Industries Research & Innovation Hub, led by Cranfield University.