Science

SEAS' Gordon Keith has a plan to slash costs of Carbon dioxide capture

SEAS' Gordon Keith has a plan to slash costs of Carbon dioxide capture

Is that gasoline in the making pouring out of those smokestacks? That plant uses hydropower to pull the Carbon dioxide from the air and convert it to a synthetic fuel they hope can compete with traditional fossil fuels.

"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.

Finally, the carbon dioxide is combined with hydrogen and converted into liquid fuels, including gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

And an air capture plant could be built nearly anywhere. Doing that on a large scale would nearly surely require significant cost reductions, a high price on carbon, or other public policy support.

Banks of fans blow air through a carbon dioxide-capturing solution in this rendering of a direct air capture plant.

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

"Taking CO2 out of carbonate solution is what nearly every paper mill in the world does", Keith told The Atlantic. After running a pilot plant for three years, Canadian company Carbon Engineering (CE) has broken down the costs of a DAC system and shown it can be done much more cost-effectively than previously thought. While the process requires a lot of electricity, the pilot plant in Squamish uses renewable hydro power. The resulting fuel could be made at a relatively low cost of just USD$1 per litre. "We can keep collecting carbon dioxide with direct air capture, keep adding hydrogen generation and fuel synthesis, and keep reducing emissions through this AIR TO FUELSTM pathway". The liquid goes through a series of steps that include freezing it into pellets and then transforming it into a slurry. Then it's prepped for other uses by heating and other chemical reactions. Their newly completed second facility can capture 50 tons per year, which the company plans to bury in basalt formations deep beneath Earth's surface.

At least seven companies worldwide are working on the idea. Sequestration of carbon captured from the air would amount to a net reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere, known as negative emissions. Producing new fuel at the end provides a way to pay for the effort. The company is now negotiating with several potential partners to build the first commercial plant, he said. Once captured, the Carbon dioxide would then be used as the main material for a synthetic liquid fuel.

As we continue to search for ways to cut emissions and slow down the effects of climate change, our best shot may just be using a method that clearly "sucks". And with oil prices surging in recent months, it might not have to worry about being able to compete with traditional sources.

The costs of Carbon dioxide removal up until now were somewhere at around $600 per ton. If that problem is not addressed, experts stress, the price tag could run into the trillions of dollars in terms of flooding, as oceans rise and the weather grows more volatile, losses in food production and other problems. "This must change quickly if we are to [fulfill] the Paris agreement".

Brent gains after reaching one-month low on supply concerns
With record amounts of Oil all over the place, including the fully loaded ships at sea, Oil prices are artificially Very High! The American Petroleum Institute was said to report nationwide crude inventories declined by over 2 million barrels last week.