Dozens gathered near Denver on Tuesday to watch as Global Thermostat — a climate research and development company headquartered in the Denver suburb of Brighton — unveiled a direct air carbon capture machine that the company says can draw about 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere a year — roughly the amount emitted annually by 200 passenger vehicles.
The company says it’s the largest direct air capture unit in the U.S. and the second-largest in the world.
“This is a very big day for Global Thermostat, and we believe this is a very big day for the planet,” Global Thermostat CEO Paul Nahi said. “What you’re seeing behind you back in the backyard is literally ten years of hard work – ten years of innovation, experimentation, success, failures. Basically, it’s just sheer persistence to make it go right.”
The house-sized unit, which looks like it was constructed from huge black and silver Legos, has big fans that pull air into it. Inside, honeycomb-shaped material containing carbon-absorbing chemicals works like a sponge.
Once the carbon is absorbed, low-temperature heat separates out the CO2, which can then be sequestered underground or re-used for making products like concrete. The machine is currently venting CO₂ as the company seeks a partner to sequester it or put it to use.
“In relation to the size of the problem, we have a long way to go,” Nahi said. “We’re going to need many plants much bigger than this one in order to achieve a stable climate.”
Global Thermostat’s goal is to build more machines like this one on-site, and the company is currently in talks to expand its technology outside Colorado.
Along with many other dignitaries, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis was on hand for the unveiling.
“To see these planet-saving technologies move from concept to actual existence is just exciting,” Polis said. “It gives me optimism for the planet.”
Nicholas Eisenberger, president of the Global Thermostat, said the company chose to develop and unveil its direct air capture machine in Colorado because of the talent and opportunity in the state.
“The government here is very supportive of innovation, of climate solutions, and specifically of carbon management,” he said. “We see a lot of opportunities here to potentially deploy our technology here in Colorado, both for sequestration applications as well as for utilization applications.”
Polis’ administration has committed to achieving 100% renewable energy by 2040, and 80% by 2030. To help achieve those goals, Polis said, “We want to be in the forefront of creating a strong, proactive structure around deploying direct air capture.”
The company is also relying on federal incentives. In addition to receiving a U.S. Department of Energy grant in 2021, it noted in a news release that the machine’s 1,000-tons-per-year capacity is the threshold to qualify for a tax credit under last year’s Inflation Reduction Act. And the company will look to benefit from the $3.5 billion included in the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law to develop four regional direct air capture hubs.
Tuesday’s unveiling comes a couple of weeks after a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that humanity must slash nearly two-thirds of carbon pollution by 2035 and achieve “net zero” emissions by 2050 in order to limit the planet’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“Direct air capture is effectively an acknowledgment that we’ve long past the point where emission mitigation strategies can solve the climate crisis,” Nahi said. “Products and technologies like renewable energy and electric cars are critical, they’re essential. But they are no longer enough…In order for us to stabilize the climate now, carbon removal is a necessity.”
Also attending the event was former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“When this story of humanity’s victory over the climate crisis is written, today will be a defining moment,” she said.
Source: Wyoming Public Media