This CO2 machine could transform the way we fight climate change

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

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

Carbon Engineering claims that by burning the company's gas in the auto, no fresh carbon-dioxide is released from the tailpipe and into Earth's atmosphere as this carbon dioxide came from the air in the first place.

As for the price, previous attempts to do just this have stalled since it could cost up to $1000 to filter a metric ton of carbon dioxide.

Scientists at Harvard have developed a new method of scrubbing carbon from the atmosphere, and turning it into hydrocarbon fuels that could be burned in airplanes or even cars.

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

The study appeared in a new scientific journal Joule, and covered in the June issue of The Atlantic. But Carbon Engineering say that by adapting existing technologies they have been able to slash this significantly.

Until now, the cost of climate change has been all about projections.

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. "We're making something that's never been done before - commercial large-scale air capture - but we're doing it on a basis of technology that already exists".

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

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.

These processes are not really new in industry, and thus have a good chance of being scaled up, says David Keith, a professor of applied physics at Harvard who founded Carbon Engineering to commercialize his technology.

Keith is also the founder of Carbon Engineering, a Calgary-based startup that has spent the last nine years designing, refining, and testing a direct air capture pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia. After capturing the Carbon dioxide in solution, the plant transfers it into a solid, which when heated releases it in a pure gas stream. The captured Carbon dioxide is combined with hydrogen, which is made through the electrolysis of water. Their newly completed second facility can capture 50 tons per year, which the company plans to bury in basalt formations deep beneath Earth's surface.

Direct air capture technology works nearly exactly like it sounds. When altered through chemical reactions with limestone, hydrogen, and air, the process creates an end product of new synthetic fuels such as gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel. A renewable energy-powered electrolyzer first splits water into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen. Those include the use of horizontally rather than vertically stacked structures, lower energy demands due to improved heat integration in the process, and the power sources selected to run the plant. Depending on a variety of design options and economic assumptions, the cost of pulling a tonne of Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere ranges between US$94 and $232.

That's more expensive than most fuels today, but not by much. Since its components are off the rack, it should be easy to scale up, Oldham said. With the exception of the US, which pulled out of the Paris Accord on climate change, most nations plan hefty spending of their own to reduce the production of Carbon dioxide and other global warming gasses.

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