Amazon makes first investment in direct air capture climate technology

E-commerce giant (NASDAQ:AMZN) is making its first investment in direct air capture technology, which removes emissions from the atmosphere, by committing to purchase 250,000 tons of removal credits over 10 years, it said on Tuesday.

Amazon is set to acquire credits from the 1PointFive direct air capture (DAC) facility in Texas, currently under development by Occidental’s subsidiary, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures. These credits will play a pivotal role in aiding Amazon’s ambitious climate goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

The company refrained from disclosing the financial particulars of the deal, but experts in DAC technology have indicated that removal credits generally come with price tags in the mid-to-high-triple digits per metric ton in dollars.

To tackle climate change as agreed in the U.N. Paris climate deal, many scientists think we need to take billions of tons of carbon dioxide out of the air every year. This is important because we’re still producing many emissions from fossil fuels.

Projects that suck carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the air can generate removal credits that can then be bought and used by companies to help offset emissions they are unable to cut from their business.

While the feasibility of technological solutions for large-scale global deployment remains uncertain due to cost and scale challenges, major tech companies are increasingly supporting Direct Air Capture (DAC) initiatives. Just last week, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) entered into a multi-year agreement to acquire 315,000 metric tons of removal credits from U.S. project developer Heirloom.

In 2022, Amazon’s total carbon emissions amounted to 71.27 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, encompassing Scope 3 emissions. Scope 3 emissions are indirectly generated by sources beyond the company’s ownership or control, like emissions from employee business travel by air.

Jamey Mulligan, head of carbon neutralization science and strategy at Amazon said an “all hands on deck approach” was needed to scale up the technology.

“We need rapid and extensive scaling, and 1PointFive, along with Occidental (NYSE: OXY), possesses the substantial knowledge, expertise, workforce, and experience essential for upscaling industrial plants of this magnitude,” he remarked.

Some green groups have criticised the role of oil companies in developing plants to remove carbon dioxide.

Last month, the 1PointFive project was one of two large-scale DAC “hubs” selected for the largest U.S. Department of Energy grants available for the technology.

Mulligan said Amazon is focused on cutting its own emissions and scaling up use of renewable energy but will also likely use a portfolio of carbon offsets, including those from nature-based projects, to help reach its net zero target.