Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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.

Matthew Micah Wright / The Image Bank / Getty Images

By Deborah Moore, Michael Simon and Darryl Knudsen

There's some good news amidst the grim global pandemic: At long last, the world's largest dam removal is finally happening.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Scrap metal is loaded into a shredder at a metal recycling facility on July 17, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Hunger strikers in Chicago are fighting the relocation of a metal shredding facility from a white North Side neighborhood to a predominantly Black and Latinx community on the Southeast Side already plagued by numerous polluting industries.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A new UK study links eating meat with increased risks for heart disease, diabetes and more. nata_zhekova / Getty Images

The World Health Organization has determined that red meat probably causes colorectal cancer in humans and that processed meat is carcinogenic to humans. But are there other health risks of meat consumption?

Read More Show Less
A common cuttlefish like this can pass the "marshmallow test." Hans Hillewaert / CC BY-SA 4.0

Cuttlefish, marine invertebrates related to squids and octopuses, can pass the so-called "marshmallow test," an experiment designed to test whether human children have the self-control to wait for a better reward.

Read More Show Less
Yogyakarta Bird Market, Central Java, Indonesia. Jorge Franganillo / CC BY 2.0

By John R. Platt

The straw-headed bulbul doesn't look like much.

It's less than a foot in length, with subdued brown-and-gold plumage, a black beak and beady red eyes. If you saw one sitting on a branch in front of you, you might not give it a second glance.

Read More Show Less