Science

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

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

"Direct air capture" that removes the gas from ambient air has 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.

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

As the Earth continues to heat up, so have calls to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change. Now, a team of Harvard scientists say they've found a way to do something equally miraculous: transforming Carbon dioxide from the air we breathe into gasoline. By some estimates, the world will emit enough greenhouse gases to lock in that level of warming within a few years. But that would still way better than what experts had assumed it would cost to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it elsewhere.

"The carbon dioxide generated via direct air capture can be combined with sequestration for carbon removal, or it can enable the production of carbon-neutral hydrocarbons, which is a way to take low-priced carbon-free power sources like solar or wind and channel them into fuels that can be used to decarbonize the transportation sector". "We now have the data and engineering to prove that DAC can achieve costs below $100 per ton".

The plant has been operational since 2015, and it began converting its captured carbon dioxide into fuels late a year ago. Producing new fuel at the end provides a way to pay for the effort.

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

Power plants and transportation are the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change.




In an interview this week, Herzog complimented the detailed analysis in the new study, but said he remains skeptical of some of its financial assumptions.

The process is electricity-intensive, and the steep decline in wind and solar energy is as critical to the company's business model as the success in driving down the cost of direct carbon capture, Dr. Keith said. That could drive a market for DAC plants that would likely drive costs down further, Oldham says. "I still think a final number could be several times as much". "That's the design choice we made".

Keith said the establishment of an industrial-scale production plant to absorb air could produce fuel at Dollars 1 per liter.

The resulting fuels, including gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, are compatible with existing fuel distribution and transportation infrastructure.

Carbon Engineering is seeking funding to build a commercial-scale demonstration plant for its process following successful tests at its pilot plant in British Columbia, Canada.

Carbon Engineering has secured $30 million to date. It is now seeking funding to build an industrial-scale version of the plant, which Keith says it can complete by 2021.

As the resulting fuels are compatible with existing distribution and transportation infrastructure, the company believes they are a promising route for reducing carbon emissions in heavy transportation and other sectors of the energy system that are hard to electrify. Thanks to ultra-low life cycle carbon intensities, they are a promising route for reducing carbon emissions in heavy transportation and other sectors of the energy system that are demanding and hard to electrify. The problem has been finding a way to drop costs and then make it work on a large scale.