The Cost of Removing CO2 From Air Significantly Reduced

The Cost of Removing CO2 From Air Significantly Reduced

"This isn't going to save the world from the impacts of climate change, but it's going to be a big step on the path to a low-carbon economy", said David Keith, a Harvard Professor of Applied Physics and founder of Carbon Engineering.

Plans to build solar shields in space or to seed the seas with materials to soak up carbon have been seen as unsafe and a distraction to the more mundane but hard task of getting people to cut their emissions.

The DAC technology - combined with access to low-priced, renewable electricity - will allow Carbon Engineering to produce a clean, liquid hydrocarbon fuel that can be mixed with gasoline, and eventually used as a stand-alone fuel, said the former University of Calgary professor who maintains a home in Canmore, Alta.

Carbon Engineering (CE) uses banks of fans to capture air as part of a process to capture carbon dioxide.

"If these costs are real, it is an important result", said Ken Caldeira, a senior scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science. Their work appears June 7 in the journal Joule.

Keith says that Carbon Engineering is confident that even if their direct air capture tech is not just a cheap, magical solution, it can be "a viable and buildable technology for producing carbon-neutral fuels in the immediate future and for removing carbon in the long run". "That's why we think we have a reasonable possibility of scaling up". The findings were based on three years of research at a pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia. 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).

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As the team notes, DAC technology itself is not particularly new.

First, outside air is sucked into the factory's "contactors" and exposed to an alkaline liquid. Climate scientists say countries will need to drop Carbon dioxide emissions to near zero by midcentury and then remove more Carbon dioxide than they emit, if the planet is to avoid a catastrophic 2°C warming. In that tower, the air comes into contact with a substance that reacts with the CO2. "CO2 is a weak acid, so it wants to be in the base", said Keith.

That doesn't even factor in the costs associated with global warming, a problem directly associated with rising levels of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The carbonate is then converted into pellets in equipment originally created to extract minerals in water-treatment plants. Such fuels are more expensive than standard gasoline and diesel, so the size and stability of the market for them will depend largely on whether subsidies are in place.

Through heating and a handful of familiar chemical reactions, that carbon dioxide is re-extracted and can be used as a carbon source for making valuable chemicals like fuels or for storage via a sequestration strategy. A Canadian company is entering the race to suck carbon from the sky and turn it into automotive fuels. Carbon Engineering (CE) has published new research that proves CO2 can now be captured from the atmosphere for less than $100USD per ton using its proprietary Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology.

The implications of CE's proven DAC technology on climate strategy are twofold - it allows the removal of existing Carbon dioxide from the air to counteract emissions too challenging or costly to eliminate at source, and enables the production of clean fuels that can significantly reduce transportation emissions.

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