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NETL Direct Air Capture Center Begins Testing, Seeks Partnerships
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NETL’s one-of-a-kind Direct Air Capture (DAC) Center has commenced material-scale operations and is eager to expand partnerships with innovators from government, academia and the private sector that are interested in commercializing DAC technology, helping to meet the Administration’s goals of addressing legacy carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and achieving a net-zero emissions future by 2050.

DAC includes technologies that separate CO2 from the ambient air. The greenhouse gas can then be safely and permanently stored deep underground or converted into useful carbon-containing products such as concrete that prevent its release back into the atmosphere.

In 2022, Congress authorized $25 million for the new NETL DAC Center, which is housed at the Lab’s research campus near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The center was designed with substantial flexibility to accommodate the rapidly evolving DAC technological landscape and was specifically tailored to create industry appeal.

“We committed to taking a customer-focused approach toward development of the DAC Center,” said NETL’s David Luebke, technical director for the center. “We met with industry leaders to see what they were looking for in a DAC testing facility and let that information guide our design.”

The function of this center, when fully operational next year, is to provide testing of DAC units under conditions representing the extreme ranges of climate within the contiguous United States, at scales up to a small pilot. Partners will have access to a nationally recognized center supporting DAC technology development and testing from invention to commercialization; inclusive, state-of-the-art testing facilities; collaborative access to NETL’s world-class expertise; and standardized and bespoke testing options representing the “gold standard” in performance analysis.

“Developers testing at the DAC Center will also be able to take advantage of NETL’s powerful suite of process modeling and analysis tools to evaluate the technoeconomic and lifecycle aspects of their technologies,” Luebke said. “This is unique resource for supporting developers in scale-up and commercialization of DAC technology, which is key to combatting the climate crisis and achieving America’s goal of a zero-carbon economy by 2050.”

The Lab’s Systems Engineering and Analysis team, the Carbon Capture Simulation Initiative, and the Institute for the Design of Advanced Energy Systems are all potential collaborators at the DAC Center with NETL’s testing partners from industry, academia and other research institutions. NETL also has world-class capabilities in device-scale modeling, such as the MFiX software suite, that will be available to help design more efficient contactors and optimize unique internal configurations that can be realized by advanced manufacturing.

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant, and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.