Break­through in Cap­tur­ing Car­bon Diox­ide Emis­sions and Con­vert­ing to Fuel

Trillions - - Contents -

A Bri­tish Columbia com­pany claims it has done the im­pos­si­ble. It has found a way to ef­fi­ciently re­move car­bon diox­ide out of the air and con­vert it into fuel for an es­ti­mated one-third of what any other com­pany has ac­com­plished to date.

Car­bon En­gi­neer­ing has de­vel­oped a process that in­volves what it refers to as “Di­rect Air Cap­ture”. The core idea be­hind it dates back to the 1950s when CO2 was sep­a­rated from am­bi­ent air for use in cryo­genic air sep­a­ra­tion. In the 1990s a sci­en­tist named Klaus Lackner be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing car­bon diox­ide cap­ture as a means of mit­i­gat­ing cli­mate change is­sues.

The method in­volves the use of an aque­ous ba­sic so­lu­tion ‘sor­bent’ (ab­sorber) made of KOH (potas­si­u­moxy­gen-hy­dro­gen). The car­bon diox­ide is ex­tracted and trans­ferred to a cal­cium re­cov­ery loop, which, with other pro­cesses, even­tu­ally re­leases the gas at the end. The gas is then com­bined with Hy­dro­gen and Oxy­gen to con­vert it into a us­able fuel.

As noted in the com­pany’s re­cent paper on the topic, “A Process for Cap­tur­ing CO2 from the At­mos­phere”, with this ap­proach the “cost per ton CO2 cap­tured from the at­mos­phere ranges from $94 to $232 dol­lars”.

The most im­por­tant im­me­di­ate ben­e­fit of this is of course that it could pro­vide a cost-com­pet­i­tive so­lu­tion to what some in the cli­mate change field see as manda­tory. With green­house gas emis­sions con­tin­u­ing to rise well beyond the lim­its called for in the Paris Cli­mate ac­cords, the only way to make any ma­jor dent in ac­cel­er­at­ing global warm­ing may be to pull ex­cess car­bon diox­ide out of the at­mos­phere.

Car­bon En­gi­neer­ing is not the only com­pany chas­ing this dream. Clime­works, a Swiss-based en­ter­prise, has al­ready built a com­mer­cial-scale plant us­ing a re­lated process. The cost of Clime­works’ ap­proach is much higher, how­ever, based on choices of spe­cific tech­nolo­gies and pro­cesses it uses. It costs them ap­prox­i­mately US $600 per ton to pull car­bon diox­ide out of the at­mos­phere. This com­pares to an es­ti­mated worst case of about US $232 per ton to an es­ti­mated best case of US $94 per ton.

At least six other com­pa­nies around the world are also known to be pur­su­ing the same ba­sic idea as Car­bon En­gi­neer­ing but are at far ear­lier stages in their de­vel­op­ment process. As the paper notes, be­sides the cost dif­fer­ence, Car­bon En­gi­neer­ing says it is the first to dis­close in ver­i­fi­able de­tail how the en­tire process can be built. It has a sec­ond ad­van­tage that its ap­proach uses eas­ily-ac­quired com­po­nents and ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy through­out. The in­no­va­tion comes in cre­at­ing the en­tire sys­tem that pro­duces the fi­nal prod­uct.

With the cur­rent de­sign ap­proach, Car­bon En­gi­neer­ing’s car­bon ex­trac­tion and fuel pro­duc­tion process re­quires some nat­u­ral gas to be used. That does mean its fi­nal fuel is not to­tally car­bon-free, with es­ti­mated to­tal emis­sions of a half-ton of car­bon diox­ide for ev­ery full ton of car­bon diox­ide re­moved from the air. Ac­cord­ing to the sci­en­tists at Car­bon En­gi­neer­ing, this means the re­sult­ing fuel’s fi­nal car­bon foot­print is about 70% of what a con­ven­tional fos­sil fuel would pro­duce.

At Car­bon En­gi­neer­ing’s Squamish, B.C. plant, the pi­lot struc­ture they have set up cur­rently ex­tracts ap­prox­i­mately a ton of car­bon a day out of the sky. Steve Old­ham of Car­bon En­gi­neer­ing says the sys­tem should be able to scale up. That is mostly be­cause all the key com­po­nents are al­ready in pro­duc­tion and eas­ily sourced.

Next for Car­bon En­gi­neer­ing is to do just that – scale up. With a re­cent cap­i­tal in­jec­tion of $11 mil­lion It plans to build a full-scale plant, and to have it up and run­ning at full ca­pac­ity in about 2.5 years.

The com­pany has been of­fered an AMERO grant.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.