Exxon is working on tech to remove CO2 from atmosphere but a breakthrough is needed to slash costs

  • Exxon is working on direct air capture technology to remove carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere as a tool to address climate change.
  • Exxon CEO Darren Woods said the technology is currently unaffordable, with CO2 removal costing between $600 to $1,000 per ton.
  • Woods said the cost needs to come down to around $100 per ton for the technology to scale globally and become a viable tool.

Exxon Mobil is working on technology to directly remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with the goal of slashing sky-high costs by half, CEO Darren Woods said Friday.

Woods said direct air capture technology holds huge long-term potential as a tool to address climate change. But it is currently unaffordable at scale, with the removal of atmospheric emissions costing between $600 to $1,000 per ton.

“If you tried to apply that across the emissions challenge the planet has, the world won’t be able to pay for that,” the CEO said during Exxon’s quarterly earnings call. “We’re focused on how we can make this technology broadly applicable at a cost that society can afford.”

The oil major has launched a pilot project in Baytown, Texas, to test the feasibility of its proprietary direct air capture process. Woods acknowledged the technology would still be too expensive to scale globally, even if Exxon reduced its current cost by 50%, but achieving that goal would demonstrate the value of the concept and drive further development.

The price needs to come down to somewhere around $100 per ton of carbon captured for the technology to become a viable tool to fight climate change, Woods said. He added that atmospheric emissions are extremely dilute and require a massive amount of air to be processed to remove a single ton of carbon dioxide.

“This is a tough challenge to break and I’m not pretending like we’re going to be the ones to solve it,” Woods said. “But I am confident that we will give it our all, applying our capabilities.”

Dozens of universities and companies in addition to Exxon are working to make direct air capture scalable, the CEO said. Regardless of who breaks through, Exxon will play a major role in the market, he said.

“Once we have a technology that gets to the right cost level, you’re going to need global deployment at scale,” Woods said. “I suspect that the technology that will be required for the future, lower cost direct air capture, will be different than what we’ve got today and will require some of the technical capabilities that we have.”

Exxon is also a leading player in efforts to ramp up carbon capture and storage technology, a different process that removes higher concentration emissions streams from industrial processes. The oil major is building a pipeline and storage network along the Gulf Coast, with three contracts signed to remove emissions from the operations of CF IndustriesNucor and Linde.

Carbon capture and direct air capture are controversial tools to address climate change. The technologies are expensive and difficult to scale; so far, very few projects have reached the final investment stage.

Some activists accuse the oil industry of investing in the technology to prolong the life of fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency has described carbon capture as “critical” to achieve net-zero global emissions by 2050 but said that the oil and gas industry needs to prove that the technology can operate at scale. The IEA has also warned the industry against overreliance on the technology as a solution to climate change.

Source: CNBC

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About Stu Turley 3568 Articles
Stuart Turley is President and CEO of Sandstone Group, a top energy data, and finance consultancy working with companies all throughout the energy value chain. Sandstone helps both small and large-cap energy companies to develop customized applications and manage data workflows/integration throughout the entire business. With experience implementing enterprise networks, supercomputers, and cellular tower solutions, Sandstone has become a trusted source and advisor.   He is also the Executive Publisher of www.energynewsbeat.com, the best source for 24/7 energy news coverage, and is the Co-Host of the energy news video and Podcast Energy News Beat. Energy should be used to elevate humanity out of poverty. Let's use all forms of energy with the least impact on the environment while being sustainable without printing money. Stu is also a co-host on the 3 Podcasters Walk into A Bar podcast with David Blackmon, and Rey Trevino. Stuart is guided by over 30 years of business management experience, having successfully built and help sell multiple small and medium businesses while consulting for numerous Fortune 500 companies. He holds a B.A in Business Administration from Oklahoma State and an MBA from Oklahoma City University.