The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced Thursday plans to fund $3.5 billion of large-scale Direct Air Capture (DAC) projects to remove and store millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the air, supporting the development of one of the key decarbonization tools to help achieve net zero by 2050 ambitions.

The new funding is being made available under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which allocates approximately $6.5 billion over five years in funding to carbon management projects and initiatives, including DAC, carbon sequestration and transport infrastructure, and carbon utilization programs.

DAC technology, listed by the IEA as a key carbon removal option in the transition to a net zero energy system, extracts CO2 directly from the atmosphere for use as a raw material or permanently removed when combined with storage. According to the landmark IPCC climate change mitigation study released earlier this year, scenarios that limit warming to 1.5°C include carbon dioxide removal methods scaling to billions of tons of removal annually over the coming decades, with DAC positioned to potentially account for a significant portion of the total.

The new funding will be allocated to the Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs program, supporting the development of four regional DAC hubs, each comprising a network of CO2 removal projects, potential CO2 utilization off-takers, transportation infrastructure, subsurface resources, and storage infrastructure.

Each of the hubs is anticipated to have the capacity to capture and permanently store at least one million metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually.

Projects will be selected by the DOE based on criteria including geographic diversity, the regional potential for carbon sequestration or utilization, the carbon intensity of local industry, the potential for scalability and expansion, and the abilities to create opportunities for skilled training and long-term employment in the region.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said:

“The UN’s latest climate report made clear that removing legacy carbon pollution from the air through direct air capture and safely storing it is an essential weapon in our fight against the climate crisis. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is funding new technologies that will not only make our carbon-free future a reality but will help position the U.S. as a net-zero leader while creating good-paying jobs for a transitioning clean energy workforce.”