Exclusive: Irish startup to test modular DAC tech in Canada

The deployment, backed by Canadian DAC developer Deep Sky, will create a blueprint for NEG8’s first pilot.

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February 7, 2024

Photo credit: Deep Sky

The Irish carbon dioxide removal market is still nascent. But a direct air capture startup aims to accelerate the market’s growth in the coming decade, to the point of collecting 10 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, or around a quarter of the country’s current emissions.

NEG8, which evolved out of a research project at Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin dating back to 2014, plans to deploy 25,000 of its “plug and play” DAC units by 2035. The company is currently early in the process of commercializing its tech, which will be installed and put to the test by Deep Sky, the Canadian carbon removal project developer told Latitude Media.

  • The top line: Neg8 will install one of its DAC air processing units at Deep Sky’s Quebec testing facility next year. The startup, which is Deep Sky’s first Irish partner, has a working prototype deployed in Waterford, with its first full-scale unit slated for production late this year. 
  • The current take: The direct air capture industry is still in its infancy, Deep Sky’s chief carbon scientist and head of engineering Phil de Luna said. Many of the industry players today are less than a year or two old and, like NEG8, often stem from academic institutions. So while these small-scale projects are a positive move, he said, “in order for this sector to mature, they need to start scaling up their technologies, proving it at larger scales beyond the pilot size.”
  • The market grounding: Some laud DAC lauded as a measurable and monitorable form of removal, but the technology remains extremely costly, and has been criticized as a fig leaf for fossil fuel players. Despite a busy last year of pilots and funding announcements, the wider CDR industry is not on track to meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change goal of up to 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide removed by 2050.

Deep Sky’s aim is to identify and test carbon removal technologies, zeroing in on those that have the most viable pathways to low cost, low energy intensity, and scalability. The company is in the process of purchasing and testing various DAC options, and plans to eventually select the most efficient solutions for a future commercial-scale plant.

NEG8’s approach uses a solid sorbent to bind with carbon dioxide, then regenerates the sorbent using heat. Its tech is storage agnostic, meaning it partners with other companies to permanently store the captured gas. A single NEG8 unit measures 40 feet, and they are designed to be stacked one on top of the other. 

The company will sell and license its DAC units directly to industry buyers, rather than sell into what the U.S. Department of Energy has dubbed an “unpredictable and inconsistent” voluntary carbon removal market.

NEG8’s Canadian deployment is small compared to other DAC projects — just 300 tons, compared to Heirloom’s new 1,000-ton installation in California, for example — but the company maintains that it is a key step to eventual scale. The test at Deep Sky’s facility will help create a blueprint for NEG8’s first pilot, the company said, and data from the testing will also add to the industry’s growing repository of knowledge about optimizing DAC.

“Once we get more pilots up and running, we’ll be able to understand which ones work in which conditions,” said de Luna. “Once we figure out that piece, which technologies work best where, you can start deploying real capital and scaling them to commercial-scale facilities.”

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