Frontier portfolio

Direct air capture

Pulling carbon directly out of the air, then storing it safely and permanently

Permanent carbon removal

23% of fund spend

Direct air capture (DAC) involves pulling CO₂ directly out of the air, then storing it safely and permanently. Think about it this way: wastewater plants clean and recycle our water, and it’s considered an essential service. We need a solution like that for cleaning our air. That’s where DAC comes in.

Right now, it’s really tricky to pull carbon from the air. Our atmosphere contains over 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon right now. That’s enough to drastically impact our climate, but it’s still only 0.0004% of the air. Capturing it is like spilling a single drop of ink into a swimming pool and pulling it back out again.

Thankfully, technology that can do this exists. And that’s great news, because it takes some of the pressure off: if we can scale this technology and make it more affordable, we can keep emitting some greenhouse gases, knowing we can pull them back out. We still need to reduce our emissions everywhere we can, but DAC is one of the essential tools we need to help us capture more carbon than we emit.

Captured carbon can be:

Carbon Engineering, British Columbia Facility

Company spotlight

Carbon Engineering

Harvard professor David Keith founded Carbon Engineering to investigate direct air capture, because it was becoming increasingly clear that even bringing global emissions to zero would not be enough. We also need to remove carbon from the atmosphere to halt climate change.

Carbon Engineering now has proven technology that can suck CO₂ right out of the air. Their goal is to work with partners to build facilities that capture one million tons of CO₂ per year—the equivalent of annual emissions from 250,000 cars or the work of 40 million trees.

Currently, Carbon Engineering is building an Innovation Centre in Squamish, BC to refine their CO₂ capture process, with plans to build the world’s largest DAC facility in the Permian Basin in the coming years. Their technology can be located almost anywhere. That means they can build facilities in ideal locations that have low-cost, clean energy to power the system, or in spots where it’s easy to permanently store CO₂ underground. Even if natural gas is used to power the plant, all CO₂ emissions from the combustion process are captured and stored underground along with the atmospheric CO₂.

Essentially, their technology pulls in air, uses chemical reactions to extract CO₂, then puts the rest of the air back into the atmosphere. It’s like a human-made tree but faster, taking up less land and delivering pure, compressed CO₂ that can be stored underground or reused.

Shopify has agreed to purchase permanent carbon removal from Carbon Engineering’s Innovation Centre as a demonstration of our belief in this method, and to provide them with a new revenue stream so they can keep scaling their technology.

“The fundamental value of our technology is that it can eliminate any carbon dioxide emission from any place and any moment in time.”

—Steve Oldham, Carbon Engineering CEO

Company spotlight

Climeworks

Climeworks cofounders Jan Wurzbacher and Christoph Gebald met on their first day of university in Zurich. They discovered a mutual passion for alpine sports and were both horrified by the visible retreat of the Swiss Alps’ glaciers. So they used their engineering skills to address this problem.

Climeworks removes CO₂ from the air with direct air capture machines. An Icelandic company called Carbfix mixes the captured CO₂ with water and pumps it deep underground. Through natural mineralization, the CO₂ reacts with basalt rock (formed from cooled lava) and turns into stone within a few years, removing it from the air forever.

The biggest barrier preventing Climeworks from scaling right now is the amount it costs them to capture and store CO₂, which means high purchase prices for buyers. The more early customers Climeworks has, the faster they can scale up, reduce costs, and make their CO₂ removal widely available. By purposefully overpaying for Climeworks’ carbon removal today, our goal is to help kickstart this market.