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Irish direct air capture technology can remove historical emissions

A Waterford company has developed a technology to directly adsorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

Dr Adrian Costigan, chief commercial officer, NEG8 Carbon: ‘Environmentalists understand that to solve the problem we need a lot of solutions’

Carbon capture technology has long been high on the political agenda as a means of tackling carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. One Irish company, Waterford-based NEG8 Carbon, is now trialling its own direct air capture (DAC) system that it says can help mitigate the effects of climate change by removing CO2 from the air.

Company Details

NEG8 Carbon

Year company was founded: 2014

Number of staff: 12

Why it is in the news: NEG8 Carbon’s DAC technology will be put to work next year removing carbon dioxide from the air

The captured CO2 can then be permanently stored underground via storage partners or turned into climate-neutral carbon products, such as sustainable aviation fuels.

“We’re revenue positive and have sold our first prototype system, a full-scale unit, to a Canadian project. They scoured the world and came to us,” said Dr Adrian Costigan, chief commercial officer of NEG8 Carbon.

Deployment will take place in the first quarter of 2025, and Costigan said it would remove 300 tonnes of carbon from the air per year.

NEG8 Carbon’s technology works by taking in vast quantities of air, passing it through a filter material that binds with the CO2, which is then taken into a vacuum for capture. Next, the gas is collected and transported for permanent storage.

The system features advanced solid sorbents that directly adsorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These sorbents act like sophisticated surfaces, specifically designed to attract and hold CO2 molecules on their surface as ambient air passes through the DAC units.

Once adsorbed, the CO2 is released in a pure, concentrated form through a controlled heating process, making it suitable for storage or various applications. Additionally, NEG8 Carbon’s system is designed to produce pure water during the CO2 capture process, something the company said enhances the sustainability of its operations.

“The carbon comes out as pure gas. Our mission is to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as our goal is to go net negative.

The path to that is to partner with geological storage companies who mix it with water and store it underground in basalt rocks,” Costigan said.

Initially founded as an academic research project by Managing Director, Ray Naughton and Technology Director, Professor Don MacElroy of University College Dublin in 2014. Dr. John Breen joined as CTO in 2021 and after many years of intensive research, NEG8 Carbon is now at the stage of commercialising its technology.

“There was a lot of research done, and by 2021 there was enough there to get significant funding from private investors,” Costigan said.

NEG8 Carbon’s business model is to create DAC farms, deriving revenue from carbon removal credits.

Moving to commercial viability

Costigan said that the concept of DAC was gaining traction with growing interest from industry given businesses need to meet stricter environmental regulations as well as mollify investors and customers concerned about the impact of their operations.

“We’re seeing carbon removals getting backing from the likes of Microsoft, Spotify, and we’re now seeing airlines. Even Lego have signed up to it,” Costigan said.

However, DAC is not an excuse to continue emitting, he said. Emissions reductions would need to continue. Instead, he said, DAC could play a role in ameliorating the warming effects of existing emissions.

“What’s very important is that industry in general continues to reduce emissions. We are there to remove the historic emissions that are already in the atmosphere,” he said.

We’ve sold our first prototype system to a Canadian project. They scoured the world and came to u

Beyond industry, the green movement, which has often been sceptical about carbon capture, has been supportive, Costigan said.

“We’ve had a lot of support. Environmentalists understand that to solve the problem we need a lot of solutions, and direct air capture is part of that and will have an impact if it gets the right level of investment,” he said.

NEG8 Carbon’s technology, which was commercialised in 2021, has now reached interview stage for European Innovation Council funding and the company hopes to become a significant player in a new field.

“Our business model is to become a large-scale direct air capture utility,” Costigan said.

Indeed, by 2050, NEG8 Carbon hopes to capture 100 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

The DAC units are modular, meaning they can be scaled up as necessary. Unlike tree-planting schemes, which have proved controversial as their effect can be difficult to measure, DAC results in clear quantification of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere.

“If you were to look at all of the carbon emitted in Ireland, something the size of Dublin airport would do it,” he said.