Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Scientists Develop Affordable Way to Recycle CO2 Into Fuel

Science

Scientists at the Canadian company Carbon Engineering have moved carbon-capture technology one step closer from pipe dream to viable solution.

The company has developed technology at its plant in British Columbia that can both remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into carbon-neutral fuels, suggesting such technology could be a meaningful part of the fight against climate change.


In a paper published Thursday in Joule, they estimated the costs of scaling up their operation to be $94 to $232 per ton of carbon dioxide captured. This is much cheaper, and more feasible, than some theoretical estimates that have put the costs of scaling up carbon capture technology at $1,000 per ton of carbon dioxide.

"If these costs are real, it is an important result," senior Carnegie Institution for Science scientist Ken Caldeira, who was not involved in the research, told The Atlantic. "This opens up the possibility that we could stabilize the climate for affordable amounts of money without changing the entire energy system or changing everyone's behavior."

The paper claims to be the first to provide a cost estimate for a carbon-capture system that is both based on technology commonly used in commercial engineering and described in enough detail that readers can adequately assess the results for themselves.

"After 100 person-years of practical engineering and cost analysis, we can confidently say that while air capture is not some magical cheap solution, it is a viable and buildable technology for producing carbon-neutral fuels in the immediate future and for removing carbon in the long run," study lead author, Harvard University applied physics professor and Carbon Engineering founder David Keith said in a Cell Press release published in ScienceDaily.

The technology works by sucking air into cooling tower-like structures with fans. The acidic carbon dioxide is attracted to an alkaline liquid within the towers that is then taken into the factory where acid and base are separated. The carbon-dioxide containing liquid is frozen and then reheated into a slurry that is combined with hydrogen to make liquid fuels like gasoline and jet fuel.

Keith told The Atlantic that the immediate commercial application of the technology would be to create new fuels that would recycle existing carbon dioxide instead of adding new emissions into the atmosphere. Storing the carbon is also possible, but there isn't yet any market for this service.

Instead, the technology could help the transportation sector, responsible for around 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, transfer over to renewable energy and fuel.

"Electricity from solar and wind is intermittent; we can take this energy straight from big solar or wind installations at great sites where it's cheap and apply it to reclaim and recycle carbon dioxide into new fuel," Keith told Cell Press. "Making fuels that are easy to store and transport eases the challenge of integrating renewables into the energy system," he said.

Keith was quick to point out that he didn't see his technology as an excuse to stop trying to reduce emissions the conventional way, but rather as a means of supporting and supplementing this process.

"My view is we should stick to trying to cut emissions first. As a voter, my view is it's cheaper not to emit a ton of [carbon dioxide] than it is to emit it and recapture it," he told The Atlantic.

The label of one of the recalled thyroid medications. FDA

If you are taking medication for an underactive thyroid, check your prescription.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Metronome, a famous art installation in Union Square that used to display the time of day, has been repurposed into a "Climate Clock" for Climate Week NYC. Zack Winestine

By Jessica Corbett

This story was originally published on Common Dreams on September 19, 2020.

Some advocates kicked off next week's Climate Week NYC early Saturday by repurposing the Metronome, a famous art installation in Union Square that used to display the time of day, as a massive "Climate Clock" in an effort to pressure governments worldwide to take swift, bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and rein in human-caused global heating.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks onstage at the event Fourth Annual Berggruen Prize Gala Celebrates 2019 Laureate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in New York City on Dec. 16, 2019. Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images for Berggruen Institute

The passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg means the nation's highest court has lost a staunch advocate for women's rights and civil rights. Ginsburg was a tireless worker, who continued to serve on the bench through multiple bouts of cancer. She also leaves behind a complicated environmental legacy, as Environment and Energy News (E&E News) reported.

Read More Show Less

Project goal: To create an environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to leather, in this case using fungi.

Read More Show Less
Plastic waste is bulldozed at a landfill. Needpix

The plastic recycling model was never economically viable, but oil and gas companies still touted it as a magic solution to waste, selling the American public a lie so the companies could keep pushing new plastic.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch