Occidental Petroleum Corp. has signed a deal to buy Canadian company Carbon Engineering Ltd. for US$1.1 billion. The Occidental Petroleum headquarters building is seen in Los Angeles on Jan.26, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Reed Saxon

B.C.-based Carbon Engineering being bought by Occidental for US$1.1 billion

A Canadian company that is pioneering the use of direct air capture technology to remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere has been acquired by U.S. oil company Occidental Petroleum.

The US$1.1-billion deal will see Squamish, B.C.-based Carbon Engineering Ltd. become a wholly owned subsidiary of Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an Occidental company that is investing in a range of new emissions-reduction technologies.

Carbon Engineering — which was founded in Calgary by Harvard professor David Keith and currently has 150 employees— has already been working for years with Oxy subsidiary 1PointFive, which is aiming to commercialize the large-scale deployment of carbon capture, utilization and sequestration technology.

1PointFive is currently using Carbon Engineering’s technology to construct what it says will be the largest direct air capture project in the world, in Ector County, Texas.

The plant under construction is expected to capture up to 500,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year with the capacity to scale up to 1 million metric tonnes per year.

Unlike the more common form of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology — which captures emissions from industrial flue stacks and sequesters them safely deep underground — direct air capture technology removes harmful C02 emissions directly from the air for safe storage underground.

Advocates say direct air capture technology has the potential to not only reduce current greenhouse gas emissions, but also to begin removing the large quantities of CO2 emitted in the past that remain trapped in the earth’s atmosphere.

While the technology is very expensive, increasingly aggressive climate policies by governments around the world are making its deployment more feasible. The U.S. Inflation Reduction Act contains generous subsidies for direct air capture projects, and in Canada, the federal government is currently hammering out details of its promised tax credit for carbon and direct air capture deployment.

1PointFive has stated it believes it can deploy 70 direct air capture facilities worldwide by 2035, under current compliance and market scenarios.

In a statement, Carbon Engineering CEO Daniel Friedmann said the deal with Occidental will dramatically enhance the Canadian company’s ability to continue developing its technology through widespread commercialization.

“It will enable us to accelerate our mission to lead the world in the large-scale removal of carbon dioxide from the air and help advance our shift to a sustainable, net zero society,” Friedmann said.

“We have always believed that global partnerships and cross-industry collaboration would be required to deploy Direct Air Capture infrastructure at scale.”

Friedmann said Carbon Engineering’s headquarters and its employees will remain based at the company’s Innovation Centre in Squamish.