Is that gasoline in the making pouring out of those smokestacks?
"Direct air collection is a politically promising way to get rid of carbon dioxide", said Oliver Geden of the German Institute for worldwide and Security Affairs.
By removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into fresh fuels, through a process known as direct air capture, engineers at a Canadian firm have outlined a "scalable and cost-effective" way to reduce the planet's carbon footprint without having to disrupt industries.
Lastly, the carbon dioxide is combined with hydrogen using the same Fischer-Tropsch process that large refineries use to convert gaseous hydrocarbons to liquid fuels such as gasoline, kerosene, or diesel.
In 2011, a pair of influentialpapers all but sounded the death knell for direct air capture, concluding that the approach would cost almost an order of magnitude more than capturing the greenhouse gas from power-plant stacks.
One of the main problems with the technology to date has simply been one of scale and, more importantly, cost.
A British Columbia start-up funded by Bill Gates says it can capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for less than $100 (U.S.) per tonne and produce a low-carbon transportation fuel that can replace traditional gasoline at a competitive cost.
The paper's primary researcher was David Keith, Founder of CE.
"At CE, we've been working on direct air capture since 2009, running our pilot plant since 2015, and we now have the data and engineering to prove that DAC can achieve costs below (US$100 per tonne)".
Having delivered the proof of concept and demonstrated the scalability and affordability of such a system, Keith feels positive about the future of Carbon Engineering's technology.
By useful way, Prof David Keith implies the utilization of the extracted Carbon dioxide by turning it into a synthetic liquid fuel when combined with green energy. The liquid goes through a series of steps that include freezing it into pellets and then transforming it into a slurry.
An industrial plant, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, could capture a million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, equivalent to emissions by 250,000 cars. Producing new fuel at the end provides a way to pay for the effort. It's now seeking additional funds to build a larger facility that will begin selling fuels, though still on a relatively small scale.
The plant draws in air, Carbon dioxide being scrubbed out and eventually combined with hydrogen to form a variety of different liquid fuels. And with oil prices surging in recent months, it might not have to worry about being able to compete with traditional sources. But such technology is expensive-about $600 per ton of CO2, by one recent estimate. "This must change quickly if we are to fulfil the Paris agreement", she explained.
As the team notes, DAC technology itself is not particularly new. It could be paired with a process in which emissions from a factory or power plant are sequestered, or stored underground, rather than being released into the atmosphere. Because CO2 is a mild acid, it is attracted to the alkaline liquid. "CO2 is a weak acid, so it wants to be in the base", said Keith.
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