Calgary company can capture Carbon dioxide at a cost of $94 per ton

Christopher Davidson
June 8, 2018

A British Columbia company says in newly published research that it's doing just that - and for less than one-third the cost of other companies working on the same technology. "These guys actually have something you can measure", says Stephen Pacala, an ecologist with Princeton University who is chairing a panel on carbon removal technologies for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

United Nations reports indicate that governments may have to deploy such novel technologies this century to remove carbon from nature and bury it to limit global warming under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. At that point, one of the only ways to reverse the effects is to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, where it otherwise persists for thousands of years.

Carbon Engineering is entering the race to suck carbon from the sky and turn it into automotive fuels.

New tests involving a CO2-extraction method called direct air capture suggests pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is cheaper than scientists expected.

After conducting a full process analysis and crunching the numbers, Keith and his colleagues claim that realizing direct air capture on an impactful scale will cost roughly $94-$232 per ton of carbon dioxide captured, which is on the low end of estimates that have ranged up to $1,000 per ton in theoretical analyses.

The company has also built a pilot operation to turn captured Carbon dioxide into a variety of liquid fuels, including gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

It costs Climeworks about $600 USA a tonne to remove carbon from the atmosphere. The results: Their technology can capture Carbon dioxide for between $94 and $232 per ton, they report today in Joule.

"We're tapping into existing industrial equipment and then defining a new process and applying some unique chemistry to it", said Oldham.

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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.

Keith says producing synthetic fuels offers a sustainable business model that could help companies scale up and reduce the costs of the technology, easing the path to that eventual goal.

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

"The objective of capturing from the air is that you can make low carbon fuels from renewable power". Commercialization of such plants would allow direct air capture to make a dent in transportation emissions by connecting low-cost renewable energy to low-carbon transportation fuels using Carbon Engineering's AIR TO FUELSTM pathway. And because the process recycles carbon from the air, it would constitute a low-carbon fuel, something that places such as California are increasingly requiring in their fuel mixes, and which command a premium price.

That footprint would shrink further if the plant were all-electric.

The resulting fuels, including gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, are compatible with existing fuel distribution and transportation infrastructure. That cheap power doesn't magically make an airplane go from Winnipeg to Halifax.

"I'm reasonably optimistic. The markets for these ultra-low carbon fuels really seem to be there now. That's the core idea here".

"At Carbon Engineering, we now have the data and engineering to prove that DAC can achieve costs below $100 (U.S.)", he said. An industrial plant, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, could capture a million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, equivalent to emissions by 250,000 cars. That'll take about 2 1/2 years, said Oldham. The company is now making around one barrel a day by combining the pure Carbon dioxide with hydrogen derived from water, using renewable energy.

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