Canada-based Carbon Engineering has exceeded its financing target which will enable it to deploy its first commercial operation to remove CO₂ directly from the air, it said March 21.

Founded in 2009, Carbon Engineering developed technology that captures CO₂ directly from the atmosphere and converts it into low-carbon fuels for transport and for use in enhanced oil recovery.

The firm told Reuters in January that it expected to reach a $60 million financing target by the end of the first quarter.

It said March 21 it has completed an equity financing round of $68 million, the largest private equity investment made into a direct air capture company to date.

Investors in the technology now include U.S. billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, Canadian billionaire Murray Edwards plus energy groups BHP Group Plc, Chevron Technology Ventures, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures as well as others, the firm said.

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The company has been removing CO₂ from the atmosphere since 2015 at a pilot plant in British Columbia and converting it into fuel which can power cars, trucks and airplanes since 2017.

The $68 million investment will allow Carbon Engineering to expand its pilot plant in British Colombia and deploy its first commercial facilities which will be able to capture up to one million tonnes of CO₂ from the air each year.

Carbon Engineering says its technology can capture and purify CO₂ for under $100 a tonne.

"Our technology has been proven based on extensive testing in our pilot facility, and we’re ready to scale up using existing commercial equipment to deploy reliable and cost-effective facilities," said the company's CEO Steve Oldham.

Extracting vast amounts of CO₂ from the atmosphere could help to limit global warming, blamed for causing more heatwaves, wildfires, floods and rising sea levels.

The costs of such technologies are high, however, and a huge number of plants would be needed to make a dent in manmade CO₂ emissions.