Microsoft buys into yet more carbon capture tech

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In an effort to further reduce its environmental impact, Microsoft has signed a contract with the aptly named CarbonCapture to bury its CO2 emissions below ground. 

The tech giant has been making various gestures towards going green in recent years, especially concerning the data centers used to power its cloud computing and CDN platform Azure. It was also one of the first companies to back projects that sought to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. 

Although based in LA, CarbonCapture is building a new direct air capture (DAC) facility in Wyoming, titled Project Bison, which is slated to begin operations in late 2024. The company’s modular technology will take CO2 emission from the air and store them in containers, which will themselves be stored underground. 

Prevention vs capture

By 2030, Microsoft wants to be carbon negative, which will mean that it ends up removing more CO2 from the atmosphere than what it actually produces. And by 2050, it wants to remove same amount of CO2 that it has ever produced since its inception.  

Currently, the technologies to capture this amount of carbon do not exist, but Microsoft seems confident that eventually they will, and that this new deal with CarbonCapture is setting them up on the right path. Phillip Goodman, director of Microsoft’s Carbon Removal Portfolio, said:

“This agreement with CarbonCapture helps us move toward our carbon negative goal, while also helping to catalyze the growth of the direct air capture industry as a whole.”

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Although Microsoft has been aiming to prevent the amount of CO2 it releases in the first place, its emissions started to rise in 2021 for the first time in years, producing 14 million metric tons that year, which is more than that produced by 2.7 million households a year in their electricity use. 

CarbonCapture, for its part, will only be able to capture 10,000 metric tons of CO2 a year according to its projections for Project Bison. However, it hopes to be able to increase this up to 5 million by 2030, a big ask considering all 18 DAC plants that are currently operational worldwide can only capture a combined total of just 0.01 million metric tons right now.

Despite this, CarbonCapture CEO and CTO Adrian Corless is excited about the deal with Microsoft, as it is the startup’s biggest to date – larger even than all its other contracts combined – telling The Verge that it is “an important… validating step for our business.”

Details are scarce regarding how just much of Microsoft’s CO2 emissions will actually be captured by CarbonCapture, and how much the deal is worth. Microsoft has also bought carbon removal credits from another company, the Swiss-based Climeworks, again for an unknown amount. What we do know is that price per ton to buy captured CO2 from Climeworks is $600.

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