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Navigating the Stages of Commercialization to Deploy Direct Air Capture at Scale

A significant scale-up of carbon dioxide removal technologies, including direct air capture (DAC), is necessary to achieve economy-wide net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. The growing number of companies involved in commercializing DAC technology highlights the increasing recognition of both economic and environmental opportunities. To effectively support DAC deployment, understanding the industry’s current status and associated risks is crucial. The latest report from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s DAC Advisory Council provides a comprehensive overview of the commercial landscape for DAC startups and identifies key risk categories they must navigate:

  1. Science risk: The risk that the process proves scientifically or physically infeasible.
  2. Engineering risk: The risk that the process cannot be cost-effectively replicated at scale and under real-world conditions.
  3. Commercial risk: The risk of insufficient demand, lack of competitiveness, or unprofitability of the product.
  4. Financing risk: The risk of limited capital access or debt mismanagement for companies.

Bringing DAC from concept to industrial-scale bankability requires significant time and financial investment, typically spanning a decade or more. Although each DAC company is unique, they face similar risks and must consider appropriate forms of private and public capital to support their development phases. The nascent DAC industry is at a critical turning point, necessitating additional federal funding for DAC pilot projects to achieve economy-wide net-zero emissions. Effectively leveraging this support, along with the implementation of programs like the Department of Energy’s DAC Hubs, can accelerate the deployment of diverse DAC technologies in the coming years.

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