Extracting CO2 from the air at low cost
Experts in the field of science say that even if you stop all the emissions tomorrow, the Earth’s temperature will continue to rise for the next 200 years. The reason – the accumulated carbon dioxide particles released into the air by the humankind.
The question and the answer
The question that we have in front of us is “how to tap the excess CO2 from the atmosphere?” The answer is using an old technology but with a different approach, says Noah Deich, who is the co-founder and executive director of Center for Carbon Removal. DAC or Direct Air Capture helps in removing such gases from the ambient air. Although discussed as a compelling solution for over six decades, setting up the system deemed expensive in practice.
For the first time, according to a paper published in the Joule by David Keith, professor of Applied Physics, using the age-old technology is possible without spending thousands of dollars. Along with his colleagues, Keith estimates that extracting CO2 from the atmosphere is possible under $100 per metric ton. They set up Carbon Engineering company, where they ran a pilot project. It began in the year 2015 and helped Keith and his team to lay hands on accurate data that provided the breakdown of commercial operations of the DAC process.
DAC is not a new technology. Climeworks, which is a Swiss company, opened the first DAC plant that sucks CO2 from the atmosphere using the roof-mounted facility. It sends the extracted CO2 to the nearby greenhouse. It partnered with a geothermal plant to convert the captured gas into a stone. However, it is also possible to convert it to methanol, diesel fuel, and carbon nanofibers.
The economic analysis and data
The presence of CO2 in the atmosphere is only 0.04%. That is one molecule for every 2,500 molecules. The paper published by Professor Keith provides the transparency needed for the industry to capture the enormous volumes of CO2. The economic analysis along with engineering data collected by Keith and his team helps in reducing the extraction process to less than $100 per metric ton than the previous pegged or estimated $1,000 per metric ton.
The role of Carbon Engineering
The goal of Carbon Engineering company, which Keith found with his colleagues is to extract CO2 and convert into carbon-neutral fuels. The company also plans to use DAC to transform carbon-free energy to energy fuels that help vehicles, such as airplanes, which are difficult to run on electricity. The entire approach is different when compared with that of others in the market.
Keith is not setting up a new technology or a new product. In his words, the company is planning to set-up probably the first commercial large-scale air capture unit. For the pilot unit, the team used an industrial cooling unit and converted to extract CO2 using liquid hydroxide solution. The unit transforms the captured CO2 into pellets, which change to carbon dioxide gas when they get into a furnace.
The fuel produced by the company is compatible with existing engines. It thus provides a choice for the transportation sector to look for solutions that help in reducing emissions by using the clean fuel directly or blending.
Source: Carbon Engineering