How decentralized DAC can fast track onsite carbon capture

Published on 
June 22, 2022

The world is becoming decentralized.  From energy to finance, new smarter and secure technologies are challenging established systems because it gives individuals and organizations quicker ways to create value for the world, helping change people’s behavior in the way we operate our everyday lives.

Take the clean energy transition for example. The millions of solar panel systems and electric vehicle charge points – installed across the world – provides the ability for any home, or car, with a battery to become a power plant by essentially providing more ways to balance the load on the increasingly congested electric grid and ultimately provide new revenue streams to those who didn’t have the opportunity before.

The same is true for direct air capture.  As carbon capture technology emerges, the first application we see being brought to the market are huge, large centralized installations. However, these installations are costly and take significant time to deploy. 

There are many ways to suck CO2 out of the air

Looking at it from a decentralized lens, why not provide direct air capture onsite, at the point where it could be used to grow crops, make new fuels and on buildings to improve the air we breathe and at a price point that actually makes sense. To break it down, each unit is effectively working in the same way a tree would suck CO2 out of the air. However, the Skytree onsite unit can suck CO2 faster and more effectively.  We see this opportunity by starting with providing value for small scale, niche markets. And that's why we call it decentralized. 

The biggest benefit is to have a modular unit right next to where you need the CO2. And then we can modify the unit and the tech in such ways that we can supply the CO2 that you actually need. And in the amounts that you need. 

CO2 is not evil. In fact it’s a vital resource. Why not recycle it?

What we should be doing is taking where we have too much and providing it to where it can be used. It’s time to change people’s relationship with CO2. Decentralized also provides the means to capture carbon at source to utilize.

We have all been educated in the last decade to see it as the enemy that we need to remove from the atmosphere and put back into the earth. But why does removing need to mean only putting it back into the earth?

There is enough CO2 in the air that we can use to disrupt further CO2 production. Small and modular, easy to deploy Skytree units promote circularity. On top of this, by fast tracking deployment using existing infrastructure, we wanted to shift our focus to where in the market we could find a CO2 price point that actually makes sense today. 

Size and Price Matter to the Carbon Economics Equation

As IPCC scenarios suggests, we need carbon removal strategies and processes in place to meet our warming goals. In the science community it is well-known that we actually need to find a way to sequester CO2 from the air. And it's one of the most important ways we are going to combat the climate crisis.

Decentralized Direct Air Capture is just one of those ways. It's by far and it's not by any means a silver bullet to climate change, but it really is a bullet that can fast track our fight towards a cleaner world. Imagine in just 5 years time over 50,000 Skytree units sucking CO2 out of the air at Indoor Farms, buildings, homes and even on ships utilizing CO2 in a way that adds value to the ecosystem around it - from growing crops, improving air quality, creating remote energy storage for homes and businesses and even enabling cleaner and healthier water. However today we are utilizing carbon cylinders produced from fossil fuels. Overall, we need many valuable solutions - large and small -  to scale faster than we have seen before ultimately aiming to reduce CO2 emissions 100 million tons by 2050.

Price is equally important when looking at deploying decentralized direct air capture. In fact, carbon pricing is a hot debate today. By producing CO2 at the price point the market needs is key to our strategy and also having the ability to build on that to create a scalable design for  larger systems in the future.

If we look at CO2 economics today it seems to be a rather one dimensional model. A carbontech company is taking CO2 out of the air at a certain price per ton. And stores it in the ground. Another company is paying for it so this company looks good and fulfills its carbon footprint obligations. That’s easier than to stop flying or change other bad carbon behavior.  Right now large industrial DAC players, capturing carbon to store in the ground, are selling carbon credits for around €1200/ton, which is really high, especially if you compare that to planting trees, which is more like €5/ton.

Overall, the carbon emission reduction helps people and the planet as well as investors interested in reducing the many tons of CO2 that have been removed by their investment dollars. Who comes out the winner then in this one-dimensional model? The single carbontech company who will be the lowest in price per CO2 captured and stored in the ground. But what happens to the other startups that didn’t win this race to the bottom? 

Skytree’s business model focuses on supplying CO2 where it’s needed by capturing onsite first. We will not compete for business with ever decreasing carbon capture prices but focus on reconfiguring current carbon supply chains which mostly create CO2 out of fossil fuels. A healthy long term perspective as CO2 prices for usage go up, not down. The price instability for CO2 delivered in cylinders is becoming a pressing factor, but it doesn’t need to. Making a switch for companies such as indoor farms to onsite CO2 production from ambient air is now more attractive than it already was. Doing good for the planet and combining it with real CO2 economics is impactful, also from a return on capital perspective.  

Think Reduce, Reuse and Recycling. Take it a step further: Recycling CO2 onsite. 

When you buy your next salad that has been made with recycled CO2 from ambient air, you are essentially eating the CO2 that you breathe out. A real and natural feel good effect. 

Today we need to remove our reliance on the fossil fuel industry and instead of seeing CO2 as the enemy, think of new circular ways to turn it into a valuable resource. 

Let’s make sure to keep a valuable and abundant resource valuable.

Estee Chaikin
Estee Chaikin
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