Airbus and a number of major airlines—Air Canada, Air France-KLM, easyJet, International Airlines Group, LATAM Airlines Group, Lufthansa Group and Virgin Atlantic—have signed Letters of Intent (LoI) to explore opportunities for a future supply of carbon removal credits from direct air carbon capture technology.
Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS) involves filtering and removing CO2 emissions directly from the air using high powered fans. Once removed from the air, the CO2 is stored in geologic reservoirs. As the aviation industry cannot capture CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere at source, a direct air carbon capture and storage solution would allow the sector to extract the equivalent amount of emissions from its operations directly from atmospheric air.
Carbon removals via direct air capture technology complement other solutions that deliver CO2 reductions, such as Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), by addressing remaining emissions that cannot be directly eliminated.
As part of the agreements, the airlines have committed to engage in negotiations on the possible pre-purchase of verified and durable carbon removal credits starting in 2025 through to 2028. The carbon removal credits will be issued by Airbus’ partner 1PointFive—a subsidiary of Occidental’s Low Carbon Ventures business and the global deployment partner of direct air capture company Carbon Engineering (CE).
CE’s Direct Air Capture technology has four major pieces of equipment that each have industrial precedent and have been widely used in large-scale industries for years.
The process starts with an air contactor—a large structure modeled off industrial cooling towers. A giant fan pulls air into this structure, where it passes over thin plastic surfaces that have potassium hydroxide solution flowing over them. This non-toxic solution chemically binds with the CO2 molecules, removing them from the air and trapping them in the liquid solution as a carbonate salt.
The CO2 contained in this carbonate solution is then put through a series of chemical processes to increase its concentration, purify and compress it, so it can be delivered in gas form ready for use or storage. This involves separating the salt out from solution into small pellets in a structure called a pellet reactor, which was adapted from water treatment technology.
These pellets are then heated in a calciner to release the CO2 in pure gas form. The calciner is similar to equipment that’s used at very large scale in mining for ore processing.
The third step also leaves behind processed pellets that are hydrated in a slaker and recycled back into the system to reproduce the original capture chemical.
1PointFive has teamed up with Worley for FEED of the largest Direct Air Capture facility in the world. With an anticipated capture capacity of one million tonnes of CO₂ each year when fully operational, DAC 1 is expected to come online in 2024.
Rendering of 1PointFive’s future megaton DAC facility
In addition to DAC plus storage plants, Carbon Engineering is also exploring Air to Fuels plants, which combines CE’s DAC technology with hydrogen generation and fuel synthesis to deliver near carbon-neutral synthetic fuel.
Airbus’ partnership with 1PointFive includes the pre-purchase of 400,000 tonnes of carbon removal credits to be delivered over four years.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), carbon removal is required to help the world go beyond climate mitigation and to support the achievement of net-zero targets. In addition, according to the Air Transport Action Group’s (ATAG) Waypoint 2050 report, offsets (mainly in the form of carbon removals) will be needed—between 6% and 8%—to make up any remaining shortfalls in emissions above the goal.