Deep in the Permian Basin, America’s biggest oilfield, Occidental Petroleum Corp. plans to build a facility that it believes could change the way the world thinks about fossil-fuel emissions. The globe’s first large-scale direct air capture (DAC) plant will remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and pump it deep underground, where it will remain for millions of years. The process would essentially be the reverse of what oil and gas companies do today. The goal is to lower emissions of the primary greenhouse gas responsible for global warming—and one day even produce a carbon-negative barrel of oil.
But to cover the cost of operating the plant, Occidental will initially use much of the CO2 to push out lucrative oil from underground reservoirs, thereby replacing one pollutant with another. The facility, expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, will also need support from tax credits and outside investors to be financially viable.