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☁️ "Growing the Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) Market"

Catalyst with Shayle Kann

Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Shayle Kann
Guest: Ryan Orbuch | Partner | Lowercarbon Capital
Category: ☁️ Carbon Reduction | CDR Market

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Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[5:29] “Historically, academics and others have tried to categorize [CDR in] natural versus engineered solutions, nature based versus non-nature based, which is directionally right, but not actually that helpful, because most of the interesting things are somewhere in between. One thing that I found a little more useful is to just think about what's the actual trapping mechanism for the CO2? Where does the carbon actually end up? […] It's leaving the air and then it goes into biomass, whether it's algae, or plants, or trees, or a cow, or a person. Or it goes into some kind of mineral, carbonate thing, like limestone, or bicarbonate in the ocean. Or it is just directly extracted as a CO2 gas and it's not trapped, but it's a pure CO2 gas, and you gotta put it underground, or store it, or mineralized it somehow.”

[12:49] “Carbon removal is never intended to be a substitute for emissions reduction, and […] is going to be dramatically more expensive than the vast majority of reductions. […] Decarbonizing all industries in the entire economy has a tremendous amount of inertia. And massive progress has been made in the cost curves of renewable energy. […] At some point, we have to be honest with ourselves [that] 1.5 is out of reach at this point, and the rate at which we reduce needs to be accelerated as much as possible. But there doesn't seem to be a plausible way to reduce quickly enough to avoid significant overshoot and significant damages. And therefore, we need as much CDR as we can to try to balance that a little bit.”

[14:35] “We have to get our act together on mitigation, because many of those technologies are required for carbon removal too. Unless we can come up with some really incredible biological systems and synthetic biology to make biomass that doesn't decompose or something like that, there's gonna be a lot of energy use. And no one's life cycle pencils without renewable energy use.”

[19:08] “Durability is not the only thing that matters about a solution. […] You have this weird thing where the lower the durability is, in practice, it ends up meaning it's less and less likely to be additional. And that's not a rigorous rule. But I think the intuition is just that the more aggressively you perturb the natural cycle, the more you're sure you did something. […] And that's kind of why we prioritize high durability stuff so much is because we know at least in some cases, it's additional, but that's not enough on its own right.”

[19:48] “One way to think about it maybe […] is for any sort of proposed credit, there's some notion of durability risk and some notion of an additionality or counterfactual risk. […] And you can start to try to assess different approaches along this thing. And I think what you would find is that, generally, the lower durability things are also more likely to have uncertainty about whether or not they're additional, whether or not there's leakage and otherwise.”

[27:31] “Long term […] CDR needs to become a commodity market. I don't think there's a mechanism to scale it otherwise. But along the way, I think what we'll see is hopefully […] a better monitoring and verification system that comes into place that could put up something like a leaderboard of what is the cheapest, actually delivered, genuinely real, high durability, carbon removal time. As they become more deliveries, this basically becomes like a spot price. And hopefully, carbon removal companies, if this thing is credible, and actually does a good job of knowing whether or not a ton has been delivered, are extremely aggressively competing to be at the top of the leaderboard, or the bottom of the spot price or whatever it may be. And you start kind of coalescing the community around the actual deliveries, which is kind of far from what most of the carbon removal discussion is about right now.

[31:10] “Right now, buyers are paying a price per ton. And buyers such as Frontier are publishing the price per ton that they pay, which we think is really important. But that doesn't include how much it costs to verify. And I think separating out the price that the project is charging for the carbon removal, and the actual cost to verify it at some bar that is deemed acceptable […] would probably help. Because it's the case that some of the more expensive methods like direct air capture are gonna probably be easier to verify. And some of the potentially cheaper methods, especially those using biomass, probably are gonna be harder to verify. And that should show up in the price somehow.”

[40:09] “I think we'll come up with new electrochemical and chemical DAC systems that are dramatically lower energy. I also think that we'll come up with biological approaches, ocean approaches, and otherwise that don't require as much energy. […] One of the nice things about biology obviously is it just uses sunlight to take the CO2 in, but it grabs all these other nutrients along with it. And like that could end up being a bottleneck. Bottlenecks in organic systems are going to be things like nutrient export, land use, competition in the ecosystem, or invasive species […]. Bottlenecks in inorganic stuff or DAC are going to be things like, there's not a lot of excess alkalinity available on Earth. The whole carbon silicate cycle does a really good job of driving CO2 from the air into minerals and […] getting alkalinity is going to require a lot of energy.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify | Google
🕰️ 53 min | 🗓️ 05/05/2022
✅ Time saved: 51 min

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