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Wyoming is building the world’s largest carbon removal facility

A facility in rural Wyoming is aiming to sequester 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2030, making this far and away the most ambitious carbon capture project to date.

A sprawling field in rural Wyoming will soon be filled with dozens of what look like giant green shipping containers.

Each of these mechanical units is to be fitted with state-of-the-art carbon removal technology; including giant fans to draw in polluted air, sorbent liquid to isolate carbon, and a full blown deep underground storage network to dispose of the mix. This is easily the most ambitious project of its kind, on the largest scale.

Once running at full capacity, it plans to capture 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere. For context, that’s roughly the same amount generated by a million gas-powered cars over a 12-month period. As we said, ambitious… but equally necessary.

Credit: Carbon Capture Inc

It’s widely accepted by environmental scientists that meeting the terms of the Paris Agreement at this stage will require us to actively sequester a sizable chunk of existing emissions – 10 gigatons annually by 2050, to be exact. Hence the rapid change of pace here.

The company heading up operations is aptly called CarbonCapture, and its technology is already in use throughout an Iceland-based commercial plant, though comparatively, it captures only 4,000 tons of CO2 per year.

With the proof of principle phase long out the way, the company’s desire to fully scale up has been hindered for years by expensive costs: a single ton of captured CO2 reportedly costs around $500-$700 to achieve. Thankfully, this may not be the case for much longer.

The firm aims to lessen this financial obstacle by finding cheaper substances capable of absorbing carbon, and expects prices to drop to a respectable fee per metric ton. ‘It’s highly likely that there’s going to be a significant number of advancements. So the best materials just still literally haven’t been invented yet,’ says CarbonCapture CEO Adrian Corless.

Credit: Carbon Capture Inc

Another key factor in pushing forth with the Wyoming plant was the recent amendment of US tax credit systems. Specifically, the Inflation Reduction Act boosted the credit available for carbon capture projects – to $180 per ton – which has sparked a surge of interest from companies looking to offset their own emissions.

‘It [the bill] allowed us to be much more aggressive in thinking about the scale,’ said Corless.

Encouragingly, this has opened the door for other companies to increase their output too. A start-up called Carbon Engineering has partnered with oil subsidiary 1PointFive to build a similar facility in Texas – which could capture 100,000 tons of CO2 every year.

By 2035, 1PointFive has outlaid its grand vision of erecting 70 such carbon capture plants across the globe. Now that would be impressive.

In the case of CarbonCapture, however, it has set its stool out for the foreseeable future within Wyoming. The geology of the region, which is undisclosed to prevent competitors from sniffing around, is described as perfect for locking away emissions in deep Earth reserves.

We can expect this operation to gradually expand in the years ahead, and hopefully that quota of 5 million tons per year can be realised by 2030.