Thursday, 21 June, 2018

Carbon Engineering takes major step in cutting carbon capture costs

Maybe we can afford to suck CO2 out of the sky after all B.C. start-up says it can slash carbon-capture costs, replace gasoline at competitive price
Velma Reese | 10 June, 2018, 19:56

Is that gasoline in the making pouring out of those smokestacks?

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.

"Until now, research suggested it would cost $600USD per ton to remove CO2 from the atmosphere using DAC technology, making it too expensive to be a feasible solution to removing legacy carbon at scale", says David Keith, lead researcher on the project. 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.

One of the main problems with the technology to date has simply been one of scale and, more importantly, cost.

The work revolves around a technology called direct air capture wherein multiple giant fans are used to draw ambient air and bring it in contact with an aqueous solution design to pick and trap carbon dioxide.

"Taking CO2 out of carbonate solution is what nearly every paper mill in the world does", Keith told The Atlantic.

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Carbon Engineering have been running a pilot plant since 2015, and now harvest about a ton of carbon a day. It will interesting to see its calculations for the synthetic fuel pilot plant in a future publication.

Keith and Oldham are optimistic that they have reduced scale-up risks by implementing direct air capture at reasonable costs using standard industrial equipment.

She has been involved in a project in Iceland where Carbon dioxide from direct air capture is being turned into rock, deep underground. The liquid goes through a series of steps that include freezing it into pellets and then transforming it into a slurry. The result is a compound that can be converted whatever liquid fuel is chosen using the same Fischer-Tropsch processes as a conventional refinery. 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 six other companies are also working on their own versions of the process.

The demonstration facility is already producing small amounts of synthetic fuels. And a spokesman for the firm said it can readily scale up using off-the-rack hardware, The downside is that the plant is now using some natural gas for power, but the goal is to switch to renewable electricity.

This can then be used one of two ways. And with oil prices surging in recent months, it might not have to worry about being able to compete with traditional sources.

The full manuscript, detailing the cost and process for capturing Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, can be viewed here. Some argue it may be the only way to meet the Paris climate accord's goal of holding the increase in the average global temperature "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. It could be paired with a process in which emissions from a factory or power plant are sequestered, or stored underground, rather than being released into the atmosphere. Once inside the towers, the Carbon dioxide comes into contact with a liquid that captures the gas. "CO2 is a weak acid, so it wants to be in the base", said Keith.

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