Company Makes Breakthrough By Affordably Removing Harmful CO2 Out Of The Air

11 June, 2018, 14:55 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • Carbon Engineering's pilot plant in Squamish

CE is now commercializing DAC technology through integration with the company's AIR TO FUELS™ process, which uses water electrolysis and fuels synthesis to produce clean liquid hydrocarbon fuels that are drop-in compatible with existing transportation infrastructure.

Air capture technology has been around for a while, but it was originally wildly expensive, theoretically costing up to $1,000 for every ton of captured CO2. By removing emitted carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into fresh fuels, engineers at a Canadian firm have demonstrated a scalable and cost-effective way to make deep cuts in the carbon footprint of transportation with minimal disruption to existing vehicles.

"I hope it's a real change in the community's view of the technology", Keith says.

Other experts welcomed the study as a step to remove the severe uncertainty about the cost of gas collection technology directly from the atmosphere.

While Carbon Engineering's $4 price point is about 40 percent higher than fossil fuels, it may be competitive in markets like California that require cleaner low-carbon fuels, Keith said. "This must change quickly if we are to [fulfill] the Paris agreement". The first can pull 900 tons of Carbon dioxide from the air each year for use in greenhouses.

The 2015-built Carbon Engineering pilot plant on the Squamish waterfront. One of the most compelling, known as direct air capture (DAC), uses giant banks of fans to blow air through a solution that contains a CO2-capturing chemical.

Their work, titled "A Process for Capturing CO2 from the Atmosphere", was detailed June 7 in the journal Joule. But in 2011, a review panel of the American Physical Society found that DAC would likely cost about $600 per ton of captured CO2.

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A Canadian company has taken a key step towards developing carbon capture technology that could pay for itself. When heated, the pellet releases the Carbon dioxide that can then be pressurized and pumped underground.

According to Crabtree, there are three ethanol operations in the US that are already capturing their Carbon dioxide and storing it geologically. The company claims that its scaled-up air-to-fuel system would be able to produce gasoline at about $1 per liter ($3.80 per gallon). The resulting synthetic fuel they came up with can be blended or used as it is as gasoline, diesel or jet fuel.

What makes DAC so useful is that it's completely scaleable - so rather than having to develop new technologies to make it bigger, you simply build lots of them. "Direct air capture" that removes the gas from ambient air has been possible since the 1940s, but - at a cost estimated in 2011 to be as much as $1,000 per metric ton of Carbon dioxide - it has always been viewed as too expensive to be practical.

"It's very tough, and even tougher if the Carbon dioxide is from your most expensive source, which is the air", he says.

The fuel can now be produced at a cost that would not raise the prices to consumers at the pump, he said, and "as with anything, if you build lots of something the cost will come down".

They say, if their technique is successfully implemented at scale, it could reverse the problem of climate change and give humanity a decisive new tool in the race against a warming planet. Still, Field cautions that the technology isn't a silver bullet for combatting climate change-there's no way yet to know whether it can scale up quickly enough to alter Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

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