Carbon dioxide as fuel may be future

Roman Schwartz
June 9, 2018

This would be a major advance on the current price of around $600 per tonne.

The company believes it can produce virtually-zero-carbon fuel at cost roughly 25 per cent higher than that of traditional gasoline, but will see even greater revenues due to various climate-change policies that put a premium on low-carbon alternatives.

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 company is now negotiating with several potential partners to build the first commercial plant, he said.

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. Once purified, the captured Carbon dioxide can be injected underground or used to make commercial products, such as fuels or plastics.

"What we've done is build a [direct-air capture] process that is-as much as possible-built on existing processes and technologies that are widespread in the world", said David Keith, a professor of applied physics at Harvard and the lead author of the new study. While the process requires a lot of electricity, the pilot plant in Squamish uses renewable hydro power. In that tower, the air comes into contact with a substance that reacts with the CO2.

The facility uses "contactors", sort of the opposite of a smokestack, to suck in air and expose it to an alkaline liquid that Carbon dioxide naturally wants to combine with.

While previous theories indicated that performing this task on an impactful scale would come to around $1,000 per ton of the gas captured, according to the estimates from Keith and team, it would cost just around $94 to $232 per ton.

Putting a price on carbon has been crucial to Carbon Engineering's development, said Oldham.

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He also said a time-limited solution "doesn't suit me", adding a temporary solution is not a "real" backstop. Responding, Mrs May told the BBC: "This is a negotiation, Michel Barnier has said exactly that point".

He said that at the Canadian pilot plant, carbon dioxide has been captured and barrels of fuel have been made.

"I hope this changes views about this technology from being this thing which people think is a magic saviour which it isn't, or that it is absurdly expensive which it isn't, to an industrial technology that is do-able and can be developed in a useful way". The company has developed a process it calls Air To Fuels, which uses water electrolysis and fuels synthesis techniques to turn that pure Carbon dioxide into liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

Henceforth, the company decided they should make a carbon-neutral liquid fuel. "So, there are other ways that Carbon dioxide can be beneficially utilized in the context of renewable fuels, chemicals and biobased products".

For decades, carbon capture has seemed like a promising solution. The projects consists in capturing the Carbon dioxide from the air directly. The crucial CO2-capturing chemical is recycled. "The biggest challenge we are facing is, however, that the words agreed on in the Paris agreement must be followed by actions", said Edda.

Global investors have funded a startup based in Squamish which created a revolutionary technology that could combat climate change in the future. "CO2 is a weak acid, so it wants to be in the base", said Keith.

However he believes the question of decarbonising aviation and heavy transportation can not be met by electric vehicles alone.

Commercialisation of such plants would allow direct air capture to affect transportation emissions by connecting low-cost renewable energy to low-carbon transportation fuels.

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