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WASHINGTON: The United States announced on Friday that it is investing $1.2 billion in two projects to capture CO2 directly from the atmosphere, which the United States government says is the largest investment ever in this technology, which aims to fight against the global warming, but remains decried by some experts.

This announcement illustrates the huge bet made by Joe Biden’s government in this still marginal technology.

“Reducing our emissions alone will not reverse the growing consequences of climate change; we also need to remove the CO2 we have already emitted into the atmosphere,” US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.

It is “the biggest investment in technological carbon removal in history”, the ministry said.

The two projects, located in Texas and Louisiana, are the first on this scale in the United States. They each aim to eliminate one million tonnes of CO2 per year – in total the equivalent of the annual emissions of 445,000 cars.

The capacity of each project will be 250 times more CO2 than the largest capture site currently in operation, according to the US Department.

The largest plant to date is located in Iceland, and operated by the Swiss company Climeworks, with an annual capacity to capture 4,000 tonnes of CO2 from the air.

Storage in the basement

Climeworks will participate, with the organizations Battelle and Heirloom, in the project in Louisiana, called the Cypress project, which will store the captured CO2 underground. Construction should begin by the end of the year, according to a press release from the three partners.

The Texas project will be led by the American company Occidental and other partners, including the company Carbon Engineering. It could in the future be developed to reach up to 30 million tonnes of CO2 eliminated per year, according to a press release from Occidental.

“The rocks of the basement of Louisiana and Texas are sedimentary rocks, very different from the Icelandic basalts, but which are quite viable for storing CO2”, noted for AFP Hélène Pilorgé, researcher associated with the University of Pennsylvania studying carbon capture.

The two projects should create 4,800 jobs, estimates the American ministry.

These government investments are being funded under a major infrastructure law passed in 2021. The Department of Energy previously announced plans to invest in four projects in total, worth $3.5 billion.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), more than 130 atmospheric carbon capture projects are in various stages of development and 18 sites are already in operation around the world.


Capturing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere is one of the methods now considered necessary by the UN’s International Panel of Climate Experts (IPCC) to combat global warming.

But this technology also has its critics, who worry that it is a pretext to continue emitting greenhouse gases, rather than to switch to clean energy more quickly.

“Direct air capture requires a lot of electricity to extract CO2 from the air and compress it,” Mark Jacobson, a professor at Stanford University, told AFP. “Even in the best-case scenario, where the electricity comes from renewable energies, it is therefore not used to replace electricity from fossil fuels, such as coal or gas.”

According to him, it is a “subterfuge of the fossil industry” which will only “delay” the fight against climate change.

These techniques of direct air capture (DAC) — also called carbon dioxide removal (EDC) — therefore focus on the CO2 already present in the atmosphere. They differ from carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems at the source, at factory chimneys for example, which prevent additional emissions.

Joe Biden’s government announced in May a plan to reduce CO2 emissions for gas and coal-fired power plants, focusing in particular on this second technique.

Capturing the carbon in the air is the most expensive, because the CO2 is more diluted there than in the discharges of a factory.

To achieve the goal of carbon neutrality promised by Joe Biden for the United States by 2050, the Department of Energy estimates that it will be necessary to both capture and eliminate between 400 million and 1.8 billion tons of CO2 per year.

Considerably more than the two million projects announced on Friday.

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