This Technology Can Suck Carbon Dioxide From Air, Transform It Into Fuel

Pablo Tucker
June 11, 2018

IMAGINE DRIVING UP to your local gas station and being able to choose between regular, premium, or carbon-free gasoline.

Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company funded by Bill Gates and Canada oil sands financier Norman Murray Edwards, revealed that is has developed a new technology in order to remove CO2 from the air, reaching a new and important threshold in this field.

The paper says the same technology can be used to remove carbon dioxide from burning gasoline and that it would cost between $1 and $2.50 to remove the carbon dioxide released by burning a gallon of gasoline in a modern vehicle.

That is well below past estimates of about $600 a tonne by the American Physical Society, said David Keith, a Harvard University physics professor and the founder of Carbon Engineering who led the research.

A Canadian company, backed by Bill Gates, says it has reached an important threshold in developing technology that can remove Carbon dioxide from the air.

Clean fuel generated at Carbon Engeering's pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia. The company used existing industrial processes to scale up and reduce costs.

The "direct air capture" process starts with common industrial cooling systems and a solution that draws carbon from the air, according to a paper published Thursday in the journal Joule.

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. The projects consists in capturing the Carbon dioxide from the air directly. Every year the world burns enough fossil fuels to add close to 40 billion tonnes of CO2.

"CE's vision is to reduce the effects of climate change by first cutting emissions, then by reducing atmospheric CO₂".

"We are not going to run out of air anytime soon", said Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering.

However, plans to capture Carbon dioxide directly from the air have been regarded as somewhat more substantial - essentially mirroring the actions of trees. CE has a pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia, which has been removing Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere since 2015. 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. It emits the same amount of Carbon dioxide that went into making it when it's burned and it all costs around $100 per ton.

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.

Keith explains it like a relatively straightforward process, but Carbon Engineering have been working on the problem of affordably capturing CO2 at a pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia since 2015.

"We would not be in business if carbon pricing did not exist". Released in a peer-reviewed paper, CE's breakthroughs in Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology demonstrate, for the first time, a scalable and cost-effective solution for removing Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Carbon Engineering's fuel qualifies as a high-grade renewable fuel under the Environmental Protection Agency's renewable fuel mandate, allowing it to fetch premium prices. "They like the investment proposition of taking that now very-low-value wind power, and doing a high capital cost investment in us to make this fuel that's a very high-value fuel".

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