Hub of Collaboration

Consortium Aims to Bring Direct Air Capture to California
By Chris Gould | October 31, 2023

California is leading the way in setting ambitious decarbonization goals and driving innovative solutions and cross-sector collaborations to address climate change. To help meet this need, a consortium of more than 40 organizations across industry, technology, academia, national labs, community, government, and labor was formed by Carbon TerraVault Holdings, LLC (CTV), a subsidiary of California Resources Corporation, to pursue Department of Energy (DOE) funding under its Regional Direct Air Capture (DAC) Hubs initiative to create the California DAC Hub, the state’s first full-scale DAC plus storage (DAC+S) network of regional hubs. In August 2023, the consortium was selected to receive $11.8 million in funding from the DOE, the largest amount of funding allocated to a California DAC project through this initiative. The first hub is targeted to launch in Kern County, California and the consortium will look to expand to other locations across the state.

Following California Governor Gavin Newsom’s call for more ambitious climate action, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released its 2022 Scoping Plan for Achieving Carbon Neutrality to implement the most ambitious climate action of any jurisdiction in the world. The plan includes annual carbon removal/capture targets of 20 million metric tonnes (MT) of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent by 2030 and 100 million MT by 2045. In its Scoping Plan, CARB quoted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) saying, “The deployment of CDR [carbon dioxide removal] to counterbalance hard-to-abate residual emissions is unavoidable if net zero CO2 or GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions are to be achieved.” Additionally, according to the IPCC, carbon removal methods such as DAC+S are key to mitigation pathways aimed at keeping global warming to below 1.5°C.

In addition to the goals the state has set that call for carbon dioxide removal, such as DAC+S and carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, California is considered a prime location for the development of CO2 storage thanks to its abundance of geological reservoirs that are ideal for storage. The state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and Cap-and-Trade programs, together with the federal 45Q tax credit of $50 per ton of CO2 captured and permanently stored, also incentivize the development of carbon removal projects.

Motivated by the need for a major DAC+S project in California, core members of what would become the California DAC Hub consortium came together in the summer of 2022 and set a shared vision and investment agenda for the project’s community benefits plan focused on promoting shared regional prosperity in Kern County in the form of durable economic growth, quality jobs and environmental resilience through the development of the DAC Hub. In December 2022, the DOE announced it had authorized $3.5 billion in grants through the Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs initiative to develop four domestic regional direct air capture hubs, each of which will demonstrate a DAC technology or suite of technologies at commercial scale with the potential for capturing at least 1 million MT of CO2 annually from the atmosphere and storing that CO2 permanently in a geologic formation or through its conversion into products. This and other funding opportunities drove the growth of the consortium to involve more organizations with goals that aligned with the project’s intended environmental and community benefits.

The California DAC Hub is led by CTV Direct, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CTV focused exclusively on DAC+S; Kern Community College District (KernCCD), the community benefits plan lead; and Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a non-profit energy research and development institute. When forming the consortium, CTV involved prominent and impactful community organizations to help facilitate open and meaningful dialogue with diverse community stakeholders to develop an equitable, just, and environmentally responsible approach to the project. In addition to helping the state meet its carbon removal goals, each hub will provide benefits to the surrounding communities.

As the community benefits plan lead, KernCCD works to ensure that the California DAC Hub provides transformational benefits to the surrounding communities, such as optimizing the use of renewable energy, providing high-paying and permanent jobs and workforce development programs, and investing in STEM education programs to help California progress the energy transition and meet its carbon removal goals. KernCCD is geographically one of the largest community college districts in the United States, serving more than 54,000 students who represent the region’s rich diversity. KernCCD’s insights will support the California DAC Hub’s development of the future energy workforce. The consortium includes a long list of community partners, including the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, African American Network of Kern County, Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Tejon Indian Tribe and the Open Door Network – to name a few – as well as the City of Bakersfield and the West Kern Water District.

Involving the perspectives of diverse community stakeholders is a main priority for the consortium at the outset of developing the first hub in Kern County and future regional hubs. While CCS and DAC+S are proven and effective methods for decarbonization, they are new technologies to many regions where carbon removal technologies may soon be employed. It is essential for residents in surrounding communities to have access to educational resources about how the technologies work, the benefits they will bring, and the organizations involved in the projects. The consortium members have a common goal of building a clean and equitable energy economy with the support of the communities near the California DAC Hub.

The consortium also includes partners that will provide significant expertise and resources to the project. Climeworks and Avnos, leaders in CCS processes, serve as technology partners. National laboratory partners include the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Academic partners that will support research include California State University, Bakersfield and the University of California, Los Angeles Institute for Carbon Management. Labor unions including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and International Union of Operating Engineers will provide a skilled workforce. Brookfield Renewable, Southern California Gas Company, Pacific Gas and Electric and other industry partners will provide crucial expertise in their fields as the California DAC Hub takes shape.

In a statement following the announcement of the DOE’s funding of the California DAC Hub, Governor Newsom said, “California is pioneering new solutions to fight climate change. It’s not enough to cut emissions – we have to go further by actively removing carbon pollution from the atmosphere. This project will be the first of its kind in our state and will help us meet our world-leading climate goals.” The California DAC Hub was inspired by California’s culture of innovation and strong ambitions. The DOE’s recognition of the project’s strengths sets the path for it to move forward and become California’s first full-scale DAC+S network.

The DOE funding to the California DAC Hub will be used to perform Front End Engineering Design (FEED) studies in 2024 on the proposed DAC facilities in Kern County, followed up with additional funding requests and planned development and construction potentially beginning in 2025. This significant step forward will help pave the way for California to address climate change and develop a sustainable future for the state.
Chris Gould, Executive Vice President
and Chief Sustainability Officer, California Resources Corporation; and Managing Director, Carbon TerraVault Holdings, LLC

Printed in Issue 2, 2023 of Carbon Capture Magazine

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