Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
KANW is a member of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serves the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Our mission is to tell stories about the people, places and issues across the Mountain West.From land and water management to growth in the expanding West to our unique culture and heritage, we'll explore the issues that define us and the challenges we face.

Wyoming could have the first “orchard” for capturing carbon

A photo rendering of a prairie with antelope and a moon in the distance, with the 'carbon orchard' cylinders dotting the landscape.
A photo rendering of Spiritus' 'carbon orchard' in central Wyoming. The cylinders are like 'trees' and the 'grapefruit-sized spheres' sit on top.

A company focused on removing carbon from the atmosphere, or direct air capture (DAC) is hoping to build a carbon orchard in the state.

“Baseball sized, grapefruit sized spheres that soak up CO2,” said Charles Cadieu, CEO of Spiritus.

Spiritus says it may be built in central Wyoming in the coming years. If approved and built it would be the second DAC project announced for the state. This helps the state that is attempting to lead this developing “industry”.

“Direct air capture doesn't exist today as an industry,” Cadieu said. “Skepticism is warranted. It's understandable.”

While not proven on a large production scale, DAC promises to help reduce the world’ carbon footprint and slow the effects of climate change.

In Spiritus’ design, the grapefruit-sized spheres would remove CO2 from the air above ground, and then the carbon would be injected and stored underground. Cadieu said they could serve customers from all over the world.

“Anyone that has emissions from CO2 that wants to remove them [from the atmosphere] and of course, the atmosphere is a global resource, we can remove that CO2 from within Wyoming and serve that customer globally,” he said.

Currently, there’s one commercial sized DAC facility operating in the states, based in California, and it’s only absorbing a small amount of emissions – less than the equivalent of 0.1 percent of annual emissions from a natural gas power plant. Cadieu said one of the reasons DAC has yet to take off is cost.

“That's been kind of the Achilles heel of this industry with direct air capture,” he said.

It costs between $600 and $1,000 to remove one ton of CO2 using DAC, and studies show for the technology to be adopted it needs to fall below $200.

Spiritus and other startups are promising even better – under $100. The technology Spiritus is developing to implement DAC will use less energy, therefore driving costs down. Additionally, there are federal tax credits startups can use. But, whether companies can truly drop costs by about $900 per ton remains to be seen.

Spiritus still has to apply for permitting and will share specific location details for the project in the near future. They’re aiming to start operations by 2026.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.