With a signing ceremony in Toulouse, easyJet became the first airline to sign up for Airbus’ carbon-removal initiative. The Airbus Carbon Capture Offer uses Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS) and offers airlines worldwide carbon removal credits.
The technology backing DACCS filters and removes CO2 emissions directly from the air. The CO2 is then stored safely and permanently in underground reservoirs. While carbon emissions released in the atmosphere cannot be directly eliminated at the source, DACCS extracts an equivalent amount from the air.
This technology complements other carbon reduction technologies, including Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).
Thomas Haagensen, Group Markets Director at easyJet, said: “Decarbonizing a hard-to-abate sector, such as aviation, is a huge challenge. We believe carbon removal will play an important role in addressing our residual emissions in the future, complementing other components to help us achieve our pathway to net zero. Our ultimate aim is to achieve zero carbon emission flying and, as well as investing into important projects like direct air carbon capture technology, we are working with multiple partners – including Airbus – to accelerate the development of zero carbon emission aircraft technology.”
Julie Kitcher, Executive Vice President of Communications, Sustainability, and Corporate Affairs at Airbus, said: “easyJet is a strong advocate of decarbonization for its operations and the wider aviation sector. This agreement demonstrates the airline’s willingness to extend its environmental commitment through Airbus’ Carbon Capture Offer. Initiatives such as this one underline Airbus’ commitment to decarbonization solutions for our industry and to bringing together airlines and industry players from all sectors to build a sustainable aviation ecosystem.”
In 2022, easyJet became one of the first airlines to sign an agreement with Airbus. This agreement commits easyJet to negotiate for the potential pre-purchase of verified and durable carbon removal credits. These credits, issued by 1PointFive, will last from 2026 to 2029. As part of the agreement, Airbus will pre-purchase 400,000 tonnes of these carbon removal credits, delivered over a span of four years.
How Airbus’ DACCS Works
Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS) is an emerging technology that removes carbon emissions directly from the air and stores them underground. Airbus is partnering with 1PointFive to bring this innovative solution to the aviation industry. In the Permian Basin in the USA, a direct air capture facility has been established, consisting of large fans and a complex system of pipes and storage tanks. This facility is crucial in combatting climate change and transitioning to a net-zero energy system.
Direct air capture (DAC) facilities are like large-scale, highly efficient trees. These facilities extract CO2 from the atmosphere. While some project dozens of DAC facilities will be operational worldwide by 2030, the technology is still in its early stages.
Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company, is at the forefront of DAC technology. They have developed a pilot plant in Squamish, Canada, and are now aiming for large-scale deployment. Carbon Engineering’s licensed US partner, 1PointFive, works on megaton-scale facilities in the United States and other locations. One such facility will be operational in the Permian Basin in 2024. Once fully operational, it would capture up to one million tonnes of CO2 annually, equivalent to approximately 40 million trees’ absorption capacity.
Understanding the DAC Process
The DAC process is straightforward. A large fan draws in air and passes over thin plastic surfaces coated with a non-toxic potassium hydroxide solution. This solution traps CO2 molecules as a carbonate salt. A pellet reactor then separates carbonate salt from the solution. The carbon pellets obtained are heated in a calciner to release pure CO2 gas. The processed pellets are recycled for use in the original capture solution after being hydrated in a device called a “slaker.”
The captured CO2 can be either stored underground or used for the production of Power-to-Liquid fuel through a complementary process known as AIR TO FUELS. Carbon storage, also known as sequestration, involves injecting CO2 into saline formations more than a kilometer below the Earth’s surface, ensuring its permanent and safe underground storage.
Affordable and Scalable Carbon Removals for Aviation
In October 2021, the aviation industry set a long-term climate goal: achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. To reach this ambitious target, the aviation industry will implement various solutions. These include technological advancements in aircraft design, adopting new fuels like hydrogen and SAF, efficiency improvements in airport operations and air traffic management, as well as adopting market-based measures. However, these efforts alone will not sufficiently reduce aviation’s CO2 emissions to the required levels.
Critically, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends eliminating emissions and removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Particularly for hard-to-abate industries like aviation that cannot capture their emissions at the source. Direct air capture is a viable solution for achieving negative emissions.
Airbus has partnered with 1PointFive to integrate carbon removals into the aviation industry. They will use direct air capture technology to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Airbus has committed to buying 100,000 tonnes of carbon removals annually for four years. This partnership has also inspired other airlines to support direct air capture and work towards the industry’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions. By collaborating with different stakeholders, the aviation industry is progressing towards climate-neutral air travel.