Scientists say cost of sucking carbon from thin air could tumble

11 June, 2018, 14:56 | Author: Sherry Houston
  • Maybe we can afford to suck CO2 out of the sky after all

The Swiss company Climeworks has a 900 ton of Carbon dioxide per year commercial facility that has been operating since 2017.

The company's largest private investor is Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and its chairman is Dan Friedmann, the former long-time CEO of Macdonald Dettwiler. 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. The chief executive of the Carbon Engineering Steve Oldham said that the main problem at Carbon Engineering is that nobody is ready to pay for that.

Their work, titled "A Process for Capturing CO2 from the Atmosphere", was detailed June 7 in the journal Joule.

It aims at the eventual construction of a vast, industrial-scale network of carbon scrubbers, capable of removing greenhouse gases directly from the atmosphere. Our technology is scalable, flexible and demonstrated. "While uncertainties, of course, remain, the fact that it can be built using established processes and suppliers gives us confidence to develop industrial-scale plants". "So we hope it is really a turning point". Now though the company has produced a peer-reviewed paper which claims it has reduced the cost from $600 per tonne to just $100 per tonne.

"As we look to the future of clean energy, we must invest in innovative, secure, and low-carbon technologies-especially in rural communities", Bennet said in a press release.

Previous research suggested the idea of sucking carbon out of the air - "direct air capture" - would prove too costly, with CO2 removal breaking the bank at $600 per ton. The company has developed a process it calls Air To Fuels, which uses water electrolysis and fuels synthesis techniques to turn that pure Carbon dioxide into liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

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Although burning the fuel would produce CO2 emissions, since it came from CO2 that was removed from the atmosphere, the fuel would be considered to be carbon neutral.

But those carbon-neutral fuels won't directly help to reduce carbon in the atmosphere (unless they're used in systems that capture carbon as well).

This rendering shows Carbon Engineering's proposed air contactor design. The carbon is combined with hydrogen to make motor fuel, through a technique used at pulp mills. The company is now negotiating with several potential partners to build the first commercial plant, he said. Carbon Engineering has proven that it can be done and be cost-effective, and that is a very important step for the industry, Lackner said in an interview.

Keith and the Carbon Engineering team have raised about US$30 million so far, and their next step will be to raise funding for a plant that can deliver fuels to market.

"Making fuels that are easy to store and transport eases the challenge of integrating renewable into the energy system", said Keith.

Carbon dioxide - the gas scientists say is most responsible for global warming - peaked again at record levels last month, federal scientists announced Thursday. "By making the fuel carbon neutral, the entire transportation sector can become carbon neutral without changing all of the infrastructure - we don't all have to get a new auto, we don't have to replace every gas station with an electric grid for charging".

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