Key 'step forward' in cutting cost of removing CO2 from air

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Released in a peer-reviewed paper, CE's breakthroughs in Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology demonstrate, for the first time, a scalable and cost-effective solution for removing Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

After several processing steps, a purer stream of Carbon dioxide is extracted and the capturing liquid is returned to the air contactor. The CO2 is then captured through a complex chemical process that produces just two waste materials: pure CO2 that can be used to create fuels, and water. These outcomes accelerate the shift to a "net zero" world that avoids the risks of climate change while affordably delivering clean energy. "This is a real step forward, and it's not just our company saying it", Carbon Engineering co-founder David Keith told BBC News. Keith and colleagues have established a pilot plant at Carbon Engineering's facility in British Columbia where the greenhouse gas is already being captured and transformed into fuel successfully.

A British Columbia start-up funded by Bill Gates says it can capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for less than $100 (U.S.) per tonne and produce a low-carbon transportation fuel that can replace traditional gasoline at a competitive cost. Carbon Engineering was founded in 2009, and its pilot plant has been running for three years now. "No prior research in the peer-reviewed literature provides a design and engineering cost for a complete DAC system - and this paper fills that gap".

The lower price-point would make direct air capture a viable option to start tackling the 20% of global carbon emissions from driving, flying and trucking.

"CE's vision is to reduce the effects of climate change by first cutting emissions, then by reducing atmospheric CO₂", said Steve Oldham, CEO of CE, in a statement.

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"We've bought the smallest scalable unit of each piece of technology we have".

The paper says the same technology can be used to remove carbon dioxide from burning gasoline and that it would cost between $1 and $2.50 to remove the carbon dioxide released by burning a gallon of gasoline in a modern vehicle.

Previous research and studies into direct air capture (DAC) have suggested that removing a ton of Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would cost US$600, which is too expensive to be a feasible solution, Keith said.

But in a paper published in Joule, Carbon Engineering says it has demonstrated that its engineering approach could reduce the costs to $94 to $232 per tonne.

The study implies that falling costs of solar power could produce hydrogen affordably from electrolysis without producing an excessive increase in CO2.

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And an air capture plant could be built nearly anywhere.

Previous attempts to address carbon emissions in the atmosphere faced criticism, the BBC reported.

Long-distance transportation would welcome such fuel, suggested Keith. CE has a pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia, which has been removing Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere since 2015.

Pulling carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and using it to make synthetic fuel seems like the ultimate solution to climate change: Instead of adding ever more CO2 to the air from fossil fuels, we can simply recycle the same CO2 molecules over and over.

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

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