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23 Mar, 2023
2 min time to read

CarbonCapture, a startup constructing a massive carbon removal initiative in Wyoming, has recently entered into a new purchase agreement with Microsoft.

Microsoft, a company that has been an early supporter of emerging technologies designed to remove carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere, has recently agreed to purchase carbon removal credits from a Los Angeles-based startup called CarbonCapture. CarbonCapture has developed a direct air capture (DAC) plant called Project Bison, which is currently under construction in Wyoming. The massive facility is projected to start running sometime in the latter half of 2024.

CarbonCapture's DAC technology works by drawing in CO2 from the ambient air and storing it underground, preventing the greenhouse gas from contributing to climate change. The startup's modular technology can filter out about 75 percent of the CO2 in the air that passes through them, generating concentrated streams of CO2 that would then need to be piped some 12,000 feet underground into saline aquifers. Another startup called Frontier Carbon Solutions, based in Dallas, is partnering with CarbonCapture to permanently store the CO2 on-site.

Microsoft has set an ambitious goal to become “carbon negative” by 2030, meaning that it plans to remove more CO2 pollution from the atmosphere than it generates through the use of fossil fuels. By 2050, the company also aims to remove the equivalent of all its historical emissions since the company was founded. However, carbon removal technology doesn't yet exist at the scale needed for Microsoft to meet its climate goals.

According to Microsoft’s latest sustainability report, its greenhouse gas emissions started to climb again in fiscal year 2021, after falling for a few years. Microsoft was responsible for roughly 14 million metric tons of CO2 emissions that year, which is about as much as 35 gas-fired power plants might produce in a year. While Microsoft's priority is to reduce how much pollution it creates in the first place, minimizing how much CO2 it would need to draw down from the atmosphere, partnerships like the one with CarbonCapture can help the company achieve its climate goals.

Microsoft's new partnership with CarbonCapture will only be able to address a fraction of its emissions. CarbonCapture expects to be able to capture and store around 10,000 metric tons of CO2 annually after deploying its first modules in Wyoming next year. Nevertheless, CarbonCapture's CEO and CTO, Adrian Corless, believes that the partnership is a big deal for the startup. Its purchase agreement with Microsoft is larger than the sum of the startup’s deals with other, smaller clients put together, according to Corless. “This is just an important, you know, validating step for our business,” he says.

Neither company has disclosed specific details about how much carbon dioxide Microsoft wants to remove or how much that will cost. Microsoft has also purchased carbon removal credits from a Swiss company called Climeworks for an undisclosed amount. By 2030, CarbonCapture plans to be able to remove 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year at its Wyoming facility in Sweetwater County. However, cost has so far been a significant limiting factor for the industry. The price per metric ton of captured CO2 can be upwards of $600 per metric ton.