Dr. Jennifer Wilcox
Biography for Jennifer Wilcox, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy and Carbon Management
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Good afternoon.  My name is Jennifer Wilcox, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management in the U.S. Department of Energy. 

I want to thank the Research Council of Norway for inviting me to say a few words -- and thank all of you for joining us today.

I’d like to start by acknowledging Norway as a valued bilateral and multilateral partner in organizations such as the CEM CCUS Initiative, which Norway co-leads with us.

And we appreciate Norway’s active role in the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, where they chair the Technical Group.

Åse Slagtern (Ah-say Slag-turn), one of your colleagues at the Research Council of Norway, holds this role and brings years of experience and expertise to this group.

We also appreciate Norway’s contributions to the Accelerating CCS Technologies Initiative, where their CCS expertise and leadership drives this robust international collaboration.

And we look forward to building on this foundation of collaboration and partnership as we work together on the new Mission to advance carbon dioxide removal technologies we’re launching tomorrow.

As we meet today, we’re facing an urgent, but shrinking, window of opportunity to limit the harm from the climate crisis, with special urgency for the most vulnerable populations.

And as we look at technology approaches to address the climate crisis and achieve decarbonization, carbon capture and storage remains a proven mitigative approach to reducing point source emissions from power plants and some industrial facilities.  

In the U.S., we remain committed to advancing CCS.  In the past five years, the Department of Energy invested $1.2 billion to develop CCS technologies. 

As most of you are probably aware, for the last 20 years or so we’ve been focused on carbon capture technology investments in the power sector, particularly coal-fired power plants.

But going forward, we want to expand our efforts to capturing carbon emissions from committed infrastructure expected to persist through mid-century, like natural gas-fired power plants – and harder to decarbonize industrial sectors, hydrogen, cement and steel production.

And it’s not just our work that will help make the difference. We’re also seeing new groundbreaking efforts getting underway around the world – the Longship project in Norway is a great example.

While the movement toward CCUS deployment is encouraging, there are still challenges – both in terms of addressing the technical, financial, and policy challenges to that deployment, and in the sheer scope of the decarbonization that will be required to meet our climate targets.  

I think it’s important to note that, if this were a decade or more ago, we could have perhaps focused on just deploying CCS on committed emissions infrastructures

But in their recent report, the IPCC noted that it’s not enough to simply cut emissions – to keep global warming below dangerous levels, we have to remove CO2 from the atmosphere  as we also aggressively pursue decarbonization.  

And recent studies from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to the International Energy Agency reported that by 2050, we will have to remove  gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year to achieve net-zero carbon emissions goals.

Nearly all climate models that show pathways to net-zero indicate the need for a near-term focus on CDR deployment in addition to point source capture coupled to dedicated storage. In fact, IPCC modeling shows that only emissions scenarios including CDR achieve net-zero in 2050.

Getting to Gigatonnes of CO2 removal by mid-century will require us to advance the field at an unprecedented pace. With the recently launched Orca project, we’re removing on the order of thousands of tonnes per year. Over the next decade we will have to increase this a thousand fold to be on track.

We should also view CDR as not a method for offsetting emissions that we can avoid with existing technologies – such as decarbonizing fossil fuels – or point-source capture on industrial facilities such as cement and steel. Rather, CDR should be viewed as a tool that counterbalances only the truly hard to avoid emissions – such as those from the agriculture or aviation sectors.

This is a challenge, but we have a unique opportunity – and a compelling responsibility – to advance carbon dioxide removal approaches to achieve decarbonization and help tackle the climate crisis.

And that’s why we’re launching the new Mission to CDR technologies and put them on a path to achieve a net reduction of 100 million metric tons of CO2 per year globally by 2030.

As with any transformational technology, there are challenges to carbon dioxide removal.  Some of the biggest challenges include:

  • Very careful carbon accounting – which means life cycle analyses and technoeconomic analyses for a broad set of CDR approaches;
  • Deployment of near-term technologies; 
  • Advancement of earlier-stage CDR technologies;
  • And advancing tools that will assist in monitoring and verifying high-quality storage, which means storing CO2 at minimal risk for at least 100 years in order to positively impact climate

This Mission will facilitate strong collaboration between governments and the private sectors of member countries to expand the development and deployment of CDR approaches.

The good news is that we won’t be working in silos.  We’re seeing groundbreaking efforts on carbon dioxide removal underway around the world.

From the world’s first large-scale direct air capture and storage plant in Iceland to  collaboration between U.S. and Canadian companies to advance direct air capture –we’re encouraged by the growing private sector response to the need for CDR technologies.

At the same time, governments have a critical role to play in developing and deploying these technologies. 

And I’d like to highlight some of our work in the U.S., where the Department of Energy is pursuing a department-wide initiative to advance CDR pathways, especially direct air capture – or DAC. 

The Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management – in collaboration with other offices across the department – is playing a leading role in this effort. 

Separating CO2 from the atmosphere has some aspects that overlap with point source capture, which has been a significant part of our office’s CCS R&D program – both in terms of the separation processes and its reliable storage. So, as part of the broader DOE effort to advance CDR technologies, we’re leveraging a lot of the work we’ve been doing on CCS to help advance direct air capture. 

Since January, we’ve invested $33 million in the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of direct air capture technologies.

In June, six projects were awarded $12 million to help create tools that will increase the amount of CO2 captured by DAC, decrease the cost of materials, and improve the energy efficiency of carbon removal operations.

In August, we selected four additional projects to study new structured material systems and component designs for DAC technology.

We’ve also made available $14.5 million in funding for front-end engineering design studies of advanced DAC systems capable of removing 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year from the air. These systems will also be suitable for long-duration carbon storage.

And to advance CDR technologies like DAC, our budget request for the coming fiscal year includes $63 million to continue our CDR research and development activities. 

Let me just note that, as we pursue the development and deployment of CDR in the U.S., we must be thoughtful about understanding the resources required for CDR and prioritizing investments that make meaningful progress on achieving net-zero emissions while supporting place-based solutions tuned to specific community needs.

We must also operate in an energy justice framework to ensure an equitable industry and advancements that benefit vulnerable climate populations locally and globally.

So, we’re making strides in the U.S. and in other countries – but we have a lot of work ahead of us to develop and deploy carbon dioxide removal.  And it requires global commitment and collaboration to address the technical, financial and policy challenges to CDR. 

The CDR Mission will build on the work already being done on carbon dioxide removal around the world to advance CDR approaches and pathways.

This is truly an exciting and historic effort to meet those challenges and help achieve that goal.

And my message to you today is that the U.S. and the Department of Energy welcome the opportunity to work with our co-leads on the CDR Mission – and with Norway and other partners around the world – to develop and deploy CDR to meet that challenge.

Thank you.