DOE Direct Air Capture Hubs: Catalyzing Carbon Removal Innovation

Explore the DOE's $3.5 billion investment in regional DAC hubs, boosting collaboration and scaling direct air capture to help mitigate climate change impacts.

Emissions reductions – no matter how drastic – are not enough to meet global net zero goals. We must also rapidly scale carbon dioxide removal (CDR), especially more innovative iterations, such as direct air capture (DAC). Consequently, we applaud the U.S. Department of Energy decision to allocate $3.5 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) to support four regional DAC hubs. 

Full applications for the hubs were due in March, and we expect those selected to be notified June. In this post, we’ll dive into what the program is, what it will impact, and why it is a momentous catalyst for decarbonizing hard to abate industries.

What is the DOE Regional DAC Hub Investment?

The DOE’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations will invest in four regional DAC hubs, granting $700 million annually from 2022 through 2026. This BIL funding will advance the Biden Administration’s Carbon Negative Shot target of achieving CO2 removal for less than $100/net metric ton by 2032.

To further this goal, the investment will promote the knowledge exchange, infrastructure sharing, and economic development necessary to scale DAC operations – an essential step towards a robust, decarbonized global economy.

Where will the Regional DAC Hub Funding Go?

The program will split funding among projects in the feasibility, design, and build stages of production. To be eligible, projects must show promise to:

  • Achieve at least 1 million metric tons of CO2 removal annually
  • Demonstrate all stages of the capture and sequestration or utilization process (capture, processing, delivery, and sequestration or end use)
  • Evolve into a regional or interregional sequestration or utilization network

Recipients will include technology developers, industry, utilities, universities, national laboratories, engineering and construction firms, state and local governments, tribal groups, environmental groups, and community-based organizations – a broad umbrella of collaborators intended to maximize the climate, equity, and economic impacts which are an integral intention of the investment.

What Will the DOE Regional DAC Hubs Impact?

The DOE’s regional hub program will accelerate the deployment of all stages of the DAC life cycle, from capture to end use. By fostering collaboration between stakeholders, it maximizes DAC’s potential for positive climatic and economic impacts while martialing innovators to solve remaining challenges, like de-risking the technology and improving efficiencies.

Overall, the investment aims to accelerate the decarbonization of hard to abate industries through three key categories of impact: 

  1. Knowledge exchange: the hub arrangement enables those with DAC technical knowledge to discuss ideas more easily, enabling groups to learn from each others’ experiences and expand the pool of employees with relevant skills.
  2. Infrastructure sharing: Different DAC technologies with distinct carbon dioxide capture mechanisms will need roughly the same equipment to process, export, and store the CO2 they capture. By sharing the equipment, they can more easily achieve economies of scale and demonstrate the technology’s commercial viability.
  3. Economic development – In addition to addressing the impact of climate change, the DOE DAC program aims to “prioritize community engagement and environmental justice” through measures like consent-based siting, workforce development, and the Biden Administration’s Justice40 initiative, which calls for 40% of federal investment from measures including BIL to flow to disadvantaged communities. By locating two of the four hubs in areas of fossil fuel predominance, the program also repurposes fossil-fuel industry skills and expertise to decarbonization, while domestic sourcing and manufacturing stipulations aim to create yet more U.S. jobs upstream and downstream of the hubs themselves.

Why Are DOE Regional DAC Hubs Essential?

This funding facilitates quick and comprehensive deployment of a technology that has, until recently, remained in the innovation stage. Promoting collaboration and coordination between stakeholders will enable the technology to scale more smoothly and rapidly than it would had organizations acted alone. Commercialization – not to mention the weight of the investment itself – will also demonstrate proof of concept, assuring skeptics that the technology is not only viable but invaluable as we seek a vibrant, decarbonized global economy.

We appreciate the DOE’s investment in advanced climate technologies and disadvantaged communities. Additionally, we look forward to seeing how the nation’s innovators can deploy this federal support to demonstrate proof of concept for a technology whose commercialization we believe is essential to successful decarbonization.

To learn more about 8 Rivers’ innovative direct air capture technology, Calcite, click here.