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

11 June 2018, 02:57 | Kevin Scott

B.C. start-up says it can slash carbon-capture costs, replace gasoline at competitive price

Maybe we can afford to suck CO2 out of the sky after all

Because the plant now uses some natural gas, by the time the fuel it produces has been burned it has released a half-tonne of carbon dioxide for every tonne removed from the air.

Making direct air capture as cheap as possible is critical because a growing body of work finds it's going to be almost impossible to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 ˚C without rolling out some form of the technology on a huge scale.

Carbon EngineeringRecycling the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by turning it back into fuel would help slow the process of global warming.

Those numbers are "real progress", says Chris Field, a climate scientist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Other experts welcomed the study as a step to clear up huge uncertainties about the costs of "direct air capture". This is an engineering breakthrough on two fronts: A potentially cost-effective way to take Carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to fight climate change and a potentially cost-competitive way to make gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel that doesn't add any additional Carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. "This must change quickly if we are to [fulfill] the Paris agreement". They are using direct air capture. Finally, the carbon pellets are heated in a kiln originally designed for roasting gold, and transformed into pure carbon dioxide gas, which can be turned into synthetic fuel.

Its direct air capture technology uses large fans to blow air through a solution of potassium hydroxide.

The facility uses "contactors", sort of the opposite of a smokestack, to suck in air and expose it to an alkaline liquid that Carbon dioxide naturally wants to combine with. 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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While Keith has admitted that there are "hundreds of ways in which we can fail", the technology developments at Carbon Engineering are promising.

However, plans to capture Carbon dioxide directly from the air have been regarded as somewhat more substantial - essentially mirroring the actions of trees.

The pilot plant handles just 1 metric ton of Carbon dioxide a day - to make 2 bbls of fuel - but could be scaled up. "This analysis demonstrates the potential for Carbon Engineering's technology to fall to a cost that would drive significant investment and corporate adoption in the near future". These fuels include gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The carbon is combined with hydrogen to make motor fuel, through a technique used at pulp mills. Then, by heating and chemically messing around with the captured carbon, it can be converted into a source of energy that many fuels require. But a Canadian firm called Carbon Engineering is proposing a method of collecting carbon dioxide in the air via a method called "direct air capture", and converting that CO2 into a form of usable power that wouldn't disrupt modern technology that now relies on fossil fuels, like cars.

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

The company believes it can produce virtually-zero-carbon fuel at cost roughly 25 per cent higher than that of traditional gasoline, but will see even greater revenues due to various climate-change policies that put a premium on low-carbon alternatives.

"We think this is very scalable and will have world-wide markets", says Oldham.



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