Published: Sun, June 10, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

The Cost of Removing CO2 From Air Significantly Reduced

The Cost of Removing CO2 From Air Significantly Reduced

Carbon Engineering (CE) has published new research that proves CO2 can now be captured from the atmosphere for less than $100USD per ton using its proprietary Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology.

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.

Prof Keith's "useful way" is not to simply suck carbon out of the air but to use the extracted gas as a key raw material for synthetic liquid fuel. "This is real", he said.

The study appeared in a new scientific journal Joule, and covered in the June issue of The Atlantic. 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.

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

"You can make gasoline or diesel fuel [via direct air capture] but, of course, they didn't come from the ground, so the amount of carbon they emit when they burn is just the amount you used making them, so they're carbon neutral", says Keith. One of the most compelling, known as direct air capture (DAC), uses giant banks of fans to blow air through a solution that contains a CO2-capturing chemical. This plan not only removes Carbon dioxide from the air but also uses the captured Carbon dioxide to create fuel. The last comprehensive analysis of the technology, conducted by the American Physical Society in 2011, estimated that it would cost $600 per tonne.

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.

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In a process similar to a pulp mill, the liquid containing the Carbon dioxide is brought to a factory where the acid is separated from the base and frozen into solid pellets, then heated and converted into a slurry.

Power plants and transportation are the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change. This is an engineering breakthrough on two fronts: A potentially cost-effective way to take Carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to fight climate change and a potentially cost-competitive way to make gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel that doesn't add any additional Carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. A renewable energy-powered electrolyzer first splits water into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen. Then it's prepped for other uses by heating and other chemical reactions.

"Although direct air capture cost of around $100 per tonne is still somewhat steep, in our current situation where sticks and carrots for similar technologies are sorely lacking, the cost can only be brought down through further development and streamlining of individual technologies and conjugated processes", Edda Sif Aradóttir, from Reykjavik Energy told BBC News.

"It's very tough, and even tougher if the Carbon dioxide is from your most expensive source, which is the air", he says.

Carbon Engineering Ltd.'s technique combines several common manufacturing processes and will eventually be able to produce fuel for about $4 a gallon, according to David Keith, a Harvard University professor and co-founder of the company.

"Until you really can confirm the costs and performance at scale, you've always got to take those costs with a grain of salt", he says.

United Nations reports indicate that governments may have to deploy such novel technologies this century to remove carbon from nature and bury it to limit global warming under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. "There is a long way to go to see whether it will have any large-scale impact".

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