The Frontier initiative or how the Tech giants want to boost the CO2 capture industry

This time, it is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that tells us. To achieve our goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, we will not only have to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, but also have to use carbon dioxide (CO2). To accelerate their development, Tech giants have launched the Frontier project. Hannah Beddington, the head of strategy, explains.

Capture the carbon dioxide (CO2) present in our atmosphere – then store it or to recycle – in order to fight against climate change. For the very first time at the start of 2022, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is seriously considering it. Oh, not like the ultimate solution. Because we cannot do without reducing our emissions of greenhouse gas. But CO capture2 appears today as an essential boost if we hope to achieve our objectives of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

Every year, our activities in fact emit several tens of billions of tonnes of CO into the atmosphere.2 (Gt CO2). And for a long time already, some have imagined being able to capture part of this CO2 at least in order to avoid that it continues to accumulate in theair and raise temperatures. For this, we must mobilize innovative technologies. “Significant progress has been made recentlysays Hannah Beddington, head of strategy for the Frontier project. But we are far from reaching the necessary level. In 2021, only 10,000 tonnes of CO2 were thus eliminated. That’s a million times less than what should be done. »

Frontier, a market guarantee

The Frontier initiative is what economists call a market guarantee. Objective: to accelerate the development of technologies making it possible to capture CO2 guaranteeing future demand for them. By sending a strong signal – nearly a billion dollars in nine years, that’s the ambition – of demand to research, companies and investors. “We hope to reduce development that would normally take 10-15 years to just 3-5 years”says Hannah Beddington.

The initiative was born from a few tech giants. Stripe, an online payment technology provider; Alphabet, a company spun off from the company Google ; Spotifythe service of streaming ; Meta, formerly Facebookor the consulting firm McKinsey. “Given the urgency to catalyze the carbon capture market, we wanted to launch Frontier with an initial group of partners capable of making multi-million dollar commitments, ready to act quickly and already understanding the need”, explains Hannah Beddington. But nothing prevents other companies from joining the movement. Industry giants, for example, or evenenergy or transportation. Who could or should feel the first concern.

Because if the target billion dollars is already equivalent to some thirty times the sums spent until now for the capture of CO2, “it remains a drop of water”.

“To eliminate each year from our atmosphere the 5 to 10 billion tons of CO2 (Gt of CO2) necessary to achieve the objective of net zero emissionsthe market should climb to at least 100 billion dollars, even 1,000 billion dollarsexplains the head of strategy for the Frontier project. Political commitments will probably be essential to achieve this. »

Solutions to sustainably eliminate CO2 of the atmosphere

The project is still in its infancy. “But we plan to issue purchase guarantees soon for technologies that will be developed all over the world”, tells us Hannah Beddington. CO capture technologies2 in the atmosphere, which are also in their infancy. Unlike their cousins, which aim to capture the CO2 out of the factory. But we will come back to this on the occasion of a future subject.

“Many technologies are in the test phaseassures us the head of strategy for the Frontier initiative. The use of giant fans, the cultivation of kelp in the open sea and then its sinking, the processing of waste crops in bio-oil and their return to the ground. Which will ultimately prove effective and profitable? We still don’t know. But we want to give entrepreneurs and research the confidence to start building. Because there is urgency. »

Thus, Frontier’s bet is to broaden its spectrum of solutions. Do not bet only on one or the other. The project still has some priorities. It thus aims for permanent elimination solutions – by permanent, understand beyond 1,000 years – of CO2. Solutions that not only have the potential to be operated at low cost and for a volume high to process – a volume of more than 0.5 billion tonnes per year – but which also do not occupy a lot of arable lands. And which limit, it goes without saying – but always better in saying it – the undesirable collateral effects. To be continued…

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