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Technology Collaboration Programme by IEA

Global Assessment of Direct Air Capture Costs

Yorukcan Erbay , Antonia Mattos

Citation: IEAGHG, "Global Assessment of Direct Air Capture Costs", 2021-05, December 2021.

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Publication Overview

This study aims to improve the current DACCS cost-performance evidence base by synthesising data from the recent literature and technology developers to explore the economic feasibility of different DACCS technologies (both liquid and solid based systems) across timescales, capacities, configurations, and numerous global siting factors. It also provides recommendations for the integrated assessment modelling (IAM) community and policymakers to inform next steps for DACCS implementation and deployment.

Publication Summary

  • Although DACCS is more expensive than many carbon mitigation and removal options, careful plant siting and rapid learnings can achieve significantly more competitive DACCS costs.
  • First-of-a-kind (FOAK) DACCS projects are likely to range from ~$400-$700/net-tCO2, when global average solar photovoltaics (PV) costs are used, or ~$350-$550/net-tCO2, when lowest-cost renewables are used.
  • Significant cost reduction can be achieved for nth-of-a-kind (NOAK) DACCS plants, reaching ~$194-$230/net-tCO2 for 1 MtCO2/year scale, driven by reduced electricity prices, cost of capital and upfront capital investment. Energy costs can be as much as 50% of long-term liquid DACCS costs. NOAK DACCS costs in the range of ~$150-$200/net-tCO2 may be achieved if very low-cost solar energy is used. Long-term costs were found to be significantly higher than the industry target of $100/tCO2 captured, except under ambitious cost-performance assumptions and favourable conditions.
  • The lifecycle emissions associated with DACCS range from 7-17% of the CO2 captured for FOAK plants and 3-7% for NOAK plants (if low carbon energy is used).
  • Since no large-scale plant is built to date, inherent uncertainties on most parameters are high. The largest uncertainties requiring major assumptions are on capital costs, plant scaling factors, future cost reductions through learning, and solid adsorbent cost-performance dynamic.
  • To date DACCS representation in integrated assessment models (IAMs) has been relatively simplistic. Technical parameters compiled and developed throughout this study can be used for representation of DACCS technologies in future IAM studies. IAM practitioners should consider differentiating between DACCS technologies and considering multiple plant configurations. Practitioners should also take care to ensure consistent treatment of financing costs for all technologies across their models. Furthermore, operating and labour costs are likely to be region dependent and IAMs can use reference tables to estimate how these costs could differ between countries.
  • Most current DACCS policy support consists of generic R,D&D funding, and financial support aimed at wider negative emissions technologies (NETs) or carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. The US, UK, EU, Canada and Australia are key regions with relatively developed CCS regulations and R&D and demonstration programmes targeting carbon removal or general CCS projects. The 45Q tax credits in the US and California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) are currently the only financial mechanisms in the world available for large-scale DACCS projects.

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