Unrealistic energy and materials requirement for direct air capture in deep mitigation pathways

Sudipta Chatterjee, Kuo-Wei Huang
Nature Communications, (2020)

Keywords

Energy, Energy policy

Abstract

​The increasing global atmospheric CO2 concentration due to heavy reliance on fossil fuels as the primary energy sources (~410 ppm in 2019)1 has made direct extraction or removal of CO2 from ambient air (direct air carbon capture (DACC)) the most logical alternative over traditional modes of carbon capture from large stationary sources because of many of the perceived advantages and compelling arguments2. With the current level of CO2 emissions (32.6 gigatons (Gt)-CO2/year2017)1, Realmonte and co-workers recently imposed the global capacity at 30 Gt-CO2/year as a case study for DACC, and concluded that “in theory DACCS can be an enabling factor for the Paris Agreement objectives” and recommended the policy makers to “support an acceleration in development and deployment of DACCS”3. While challenges of large-scale CO2 utilization and sequestration were recognized and these approaches were deemed impractical4,5, our analysis further showed that the energy and materials requirements for DACC are unrealistic even when the most promising technologies are employed. Thus, DACC is unfortunately only an energetically and financially costly distraction in effective mitigation of climate changes at a meaningful scale before we achieve the status of a significant surplus of carbon-neutral/low-carbon energy.

Code

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-17203-7

Sources

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