Wednesday, 20 June, 2018

Technologies may reduce cost of carbon uptake from atmosphere

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
Grady Vargas | 11 June, 2018, 14:55

"The Carbon Capture Coalition is pleased to support the Carbon Utilization Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate today by Senator Michael Bennet and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse", said Brad Crabtree, Carbon Capture Coalition co-director and Great Plains Institute vice president for fossil energy.

"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".

Making direct air capture as cheap as possible is critical because a growing body of work finds it's going to be almost impossible to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 ˚C without rolling out some form of the technology on a huge scale. A new study published Thursday in the journal Joule found a way to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere for the bargain price of $94 to $232 per ton.

Those numbers are "real progress", says Chris Field, a climate scientist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Other experts welcomed the study as a step to remove the severe uncertainty about the cost of gas collection technology directly from the atmosphere.

Centuries of unchecked human carbon emissions also mean that atmospheric carbon dioxide is a virtually unlimited feedstock for transformation into new fuels. These outcomes accelerate the shift to a "net zero" world that avoids the risks of climate change while affordably delivering clean energy. Climate scientists say countries will need to drop Carbon dioxide emissions to near zero by midcentury and then remove more Carbon dioxide than they emit, if the planet is to avoid a catastrophic 2°C warming. Finally, the carbon pellets are heated in a kiln originally designed for roasting gold, and transformed into pure carbon dioxide gas, which can be turned into synthetic fuel. The plant has been capturing 1 t-CO2/day using giant fans to draw air through an aqueous solution of potassium hydroxide (KOH) coupled to a calcium caustic recovery loop. The CO2 is either used in innovative industrial processes or sequestered underground. The last comprehensive analysis of the technology, conducted by the American Physical Society in 2011, estimated that it would cost $600 per tonne.

David Keith, the Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, thinks it can be done for a lot less.

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A Canadian company has taken a key step towards developing carbon capture technology that could pay for itself.

"It's unlike Carbon dioxide capture that's created to work from a power plant".

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

While scientists have endeavoured to come up with numerous methods for removing CO2, by far and away the most effective process is Direct Air Capture (DAC).

Through heating and a handful of familiar chemical reactions, that carbon dioxide is re-extracted and can be used as a carbon source for making valuable chemicals like fuels or for storage via a sequestration strategy.

That's more expensive than most fuels today, but not by much.

The fuel can now be produced at a cost that would not raise the prices to consumers at the pump, he said, and "as with anything, if you build lots of something the cost will come down". Still, Field cautions that the technology isn't a silver bullet for combatting climate change-there's no way yet to know whether it can scale up quickly enough to alter Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

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