Tuesday, 19 June, 2018

Canadian breakthrough on scrubbing CO2 from the air | Carbon & Sustainability

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
Doris Mccormick | 10 June, 2018, 19:56

A Canadian company is entering the race to suck carbon from the sky and turn it into automotive fuels. And because the process recycles carbon from the air, it would constitute a low-carbon fuel, something that places such as California are increasingly requiring in their fuel mixes, and which command a premium price.

Through heating and a handful of familiar chemical reactions, that carbon dioxide is re-extracted and can be used as a carbon source for making valuable chemicals like fuels or for storage via a sequestration strategy.

But a detailed new analysis published today in the journal Joule finds that direct air capture may be practical after all.

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

High costs of extracting greenhouse gases from thin air could tumble with new technologies that can help to combat climate change, scientists said on Thursday.

It aims at the eventual construction of a vast, industrial-scale network of carbon scrubbers, capable of removing greenhouse gases directly from the atmosphere.

"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", says lead author David Keith, founder and chief scientist of Carbon Engineering, a Canadian CO2-capture and clean fuels enterprise, and a professor of applied physics and public policy at Harvard University.

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It was fun to see them", he said. "The people of Canada are wonderful, and it's a great country, and a very attractive country". But classmates of the future president said that while there, he got a firsthand taste of the terrors of the atomic age.


"What Carbon Engineering is taking to market is first of all carbon neutral fuels, in that sense we are just another emissions-cutting technology, there is no net removal from the atmosphere", said Keith.

At least seven companies worldwide are working on the idea. Climeworks expect to get the cost below $100 per tonne in 5-10 years as operations ramp up. 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. Our technology is scalable, flexible and demonstrated. A plant that can produce 2,000 barrels of fuel a day would cost about $300 million and take about 3 years to build. Oldham said work is being done to reduce that. Carbon Engineering has proven that it can be done and be cost-effective, and that is a very important step for the industry, Lackner said in an interview.

That footprint would shrink further if the plant were all-electric. In the fuel cases, the carbon is essentially recycled and replaces fossil fuels pulled from the ground, hence the process is carbon neutral. CE's AIR TO FUELS™ technology is created to decarbonize the transportation sector and provide fuel sustainability within a circular economy.

"We have signed agreements with a USA company that has very cheap wind power", Keith said. That cheap power doesn't magically make an airplane go from Winnipeg to Halifax. This will depend on finding a renewable power supplier willing to supply low-price high-capacity power and incentives for low-carbon fuels, The Harvard Gazette reports.

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.

But Herzog, who has also studied the challenges of converting carbon dioxide into fuel, remains skeptical that the numbers will work even for that initial business model. "They'd be no longer dependent on the geopolitical situation if Country X has oil and Country Y does not".

"Any country, any region, can have its own fuel".

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