Carbon dioxide reaches another record level in Earth's atmosphere

Enlarge  Carbon Engineering's pilot plant which captures CO2 from the atmosphere.
Stephen Hui Pembina Institute

Previous research and studies into direct air capture (DAC) have suggested that removing a ton of Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would cost US$600, which is too expensive to be a feasible solution, Keith said.

"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".

The research was released this week, showing that the process costs less than USD$600 per ton (as it was previously mentioned).

But new research by Canadian company Carbon Engineering suggest it could be done for as little as £70 per ton.

Those numbers are "real progress", says Chris Field, a climate scientist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

A Canadian company has taken a key step towards developing carbon capture technology that could pay for itself. "This must change quickly if we are to [fulfill] the Paris agreement". Keith and other scientists are advocating for more resources to study geoengineering techniques to manipulate the climate. "We're making something that's never been done before - commercial large-scale air capture - but we're doing it on a basis of technology that already exists".

The pilot plant handles just 1 metric ton of Carbon dioxide a day - to make 2 bbls of fuel - but could be scaled up.

Other experts welcomed the study as a step to clear up huge uncertainties about the costs of "direct air capture".

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Climeworks estimates it costs them $600 to remove a ton of CO2.

David Keith is a Harvard professor and founder of CE, the one who came with the idea of such a plant. Commercialization of such plants would allow direct air capture to make a dent in transportation emissions by connecting low-cost renewable energy to low-carbon transportation fuels using Carbon Engineering's AIR TO FUELSTM pathway. To start with, the facility uses a liquid hydroxide solution to capture the CO2, and convert it into a carbonate.

She has been involved in a project in Iceland where Carbon dioxide from direct air capture is being turned into rock, deep underground. He expects that Carbon Engineering will face higher costs and challenges than it anticipates as the company moves to build larger plants. The results: Their technology can capture Carbon dioxide for between $94 and $232 per ton, they report today in Joule.

What's more, the company has developed a process to transform the captured Carbon dioxide into hydrocarbon fuels such as petrol, diesel and jet fuel.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reported in 2016 that electrolysis using wind power could provide hydrogen at a cost of about $4.50 per kilogram. After heating and chemical reactions, the carbon dioxide can be extracted - and used either for making fuel or for storage.

Direct air capture is pretty much what it sounds like: a large fan draws in lots of air and essentially filters it through a liquid solution which captures any Carbon dioxide it comes in contact with.

That's more expensive than most fuels today, but not by much.

"The objective of capturing from the air is that you can make low carbon fuels from renewable power". That could drive a market for DAC plants that would likely drive costs down further, Oldham says.

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