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NETL Expertise To Help Develop Standards for Direct Air Capture Industry
Render of DAC Assembly

NETL will help guide the development of new science-based performance metrics, testing methods and standards for direct air capture (DAC) — a critical emerging technology to address climate change by removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and meet the nation’s decarbonization goals.

As part of a four-year memorandum of understanding (MOU), NETL will work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, to advance the underlying measurement science for DAC systems and research.

“This agreement combines deep NETL expertise in carbon capture and technology performance assessment with internationally respected NIST capabilities in metrology to address issues which are hampering scale-up and commercialization of DAC,” said Dave Luebke, technical director of the NETL DAC Center.

DAC is a major component of the nation’s efforts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. While point source capture is needed for deployment at power plants and industrial sites to reach decarbonization goals, DAC technologies will be essential for offsetting emissions from hard-to-decarbonize sectors such as agriculture, shipping and aviation and for addressing legacy emissions.

“We need to scale DAC technology up by approximately six orders of magnitude to have the needed climate impact,” said Pamela Chu, coordinator of NIST’s Carbon Accounting and Decarbonization Program. “This collaboration is a critical step in helping us get there.”

Located at the Lab’s research campus near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the NETL DAC Center is a one-of-a-kind facility where developers will test systems at three scales — lab-scale systems designed to examine the long-term stability of DAC materials, bench-scale module testing systems capable of probing flow dynamics and small pilot-scale skid rooms to test prototype DAC units under a broad range of climate conditions (from summer to winter and arid to tropical).

The MOU agreement notes that NETL will work with NIST and other experts to develop voluntary guidelines, specifications, test methods and benchmark materials to ensure the comparability of measurements across the DAC industry to accelerate innovation and enable timely, effective and scalable direct air capture.

NETL will also collaborate with NIST on the development of new voluntary protocols for DAC sorbent testing. DAC technologies use sorbents to pull CO2 directly out of the air. Carbon collected and removed from the sorbents can be permanently stored in the subsurface or used as a feedstock to manufacture chemicals and other value-added products.

“A decade ago, there was very little interest in the scientific community in DAC. Today, DAC is recognized to be a critical part of the portfolio of technologies needed to address climate change,” Luebke said. “As a recognized subject matter expert is the field of carbon capture, NETL will help set the standards of analytical rigor and procedural consistency that facilitate DAC development.”

Material-scale testing at the NETL DAC Center is already underway. The center’s full capabilities are expected to be online in mid-2025.

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 using 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.