Scientists say cost of sucking carbon from thin air could tumble

Maybe we can afford to suck CO2 out of the sky after all

Maybe we can afford to suck CO2 out of the sky after all

"Direct air capture technology offers a highly-scalable pathway to removing carbon from the atmosphere". "These guys actually have something you can measure", says Stephen Pacala, an ecologist with Princeton University who is chairing a panel on carbon removal technologies for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Carbon Engineering's plant in Squamish, B.C., now pulls about one tonne of carbon a day from the air and produces about two barrels of fuel.

The costs of Carbon dioxide removal up until now were somewhere at around $600 per ton.

Carbon storage, or sequestration, has been seen as one possible solution to the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Keith says that Carbon Engineering is confident that even if their direct air capture tech is not just a cheap, magical solution, it can be "a viable and buildable technology for producing carbon-neutral fuels in the immediate future and for removing carbon in the long run".

Carbon Engineering claims that by burning the company's gas in the vehicle, no fresh carbon-dioxide is released from the tailpipe and into Earth's atmosphere as this carbon dioxide came from the air in the first place. However, the company plan to use the gas - with the addition of hydrogen derived from water - to make a carbon-neutral synthetic fuel that can be directly used by cars, boats, and planes.

The plant draws in air, Carbon dioxide being scrubbed out and eventually combined with hydrogen to form a variety of different liquid fuels.

"I hope it's a real change in the community's view of the technology", Keith says.

"Our paper shows the costs and engineering for a full-scale plant that could capture one million tons of Carbon dioxide a year", Keith said.

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.

Maybe we can afford to suck CO2 out of the sky after all

The plant has been operational since 2015, and it began converting its captured carbon dioxide into fuels late previous year.

"We're not developing a fundamentally new product or unit operation", said Keith.

However, plans to capture Carbon dioxide directly from the air have been regarded as somewhat more substantial - essentially mirroring the actions of trees. The findings were based on three years of research at a pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia. Such fuels are more expensive than standard gasoline and diesel, so the size and stability of the market for them will depend largely on whether subsidies are in place.

Carbon Engineering is now building a larger plant that will produce around 200 barrels of synthethic fuel a day and which should be fully operational in 2020.

It has always been thought however that Carbon Engineering's methods just weren't financially viable. "While uncertainties, of course, remain, the fact that it can be built using established processes and suppliers gives us confidence to develop industrial-scale plants".

CE's direct air capture equipment.

"Making fuels that are easy to store and transport eases the challenge of integrating renewable into the energy system", said Keith.

One of the main criticisms against the development of new technologies like these is that it is all just a distraction from the more boring efforts that could be done to cut carbon emissions here and now. After 3 years, Keith and his colleagues had collected enough data to calculate the plant's efficiency-and project the costs of building a commercial scale plant with the same technology.

That doesn't even factor in the costs associated with global warming, a problem directly associated with rising levels of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.