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Is it possible to extract carbon directly from the air? A new study says yes

13/06/2018
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A Canadian-based clean energy company, Carbon Engineering (CE), has been working on a way to suck carbon dioxide directly out of the atmosphere, known as Direct Air Capture (DAC). Now, the company has published research that proves that this can be done in a cost-effective way, with a ton of CO2 being able to be captured for less than $100USD.
The first part of the Direct Air Capture process involves sucking up air into a massive carbon dioxide removal plant.
(Image via Carbon Engineering).

The process involves sucking up air into a massive carbon dioxide removal plant using what looks like a wall of air conditioning units. The air is then funnelled into a honeycombed plastic slab called a contactor, where the carbon dioxide reacts with aqueous potassium hydroxide. After further filtering and distillation, potassium hydroxide is produced which is then sent back to the contactor to be used in the first step. Also produced at this stage are calcium carbonate pellets. These are sent to what is called a ‘calciner’. Here, the pellets are heated to extremely hot temperatures to release pure carbon-dioxide which is then captured.

The research indicates that this process could be feasibly scaled, offering a potential solution to the Earth’s ever-increasing levels of CO2.

The research was led by David Keith, a Harvard Professor and founder of CE, and published by Joule, a leading scientific journal dedicated to ground-breaking energy research. The findings are based on three years’ research from CE’s pilot plant located in Squamish, B.C.

Keith explains, “Until now, research suggested it would cost $600USD per ton to remove CO2 from the atmosphere using Direct Air Capture technology, making it too expensive to be a feasible solution to removing legacy carbon at scale. At CE, we’ve been working on direct air capture since 2009, running our pilot plant since 2015, and we now have the data and engineering to prove that DAC can achieve costs below $100USD per ton. 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.”
Carbon Engineering (CE) is now working to commercialise Direct Air Capture technology alongside their Air to Fuel process.
(Image via Carbon Engineering).

Carbon Engineering (CE) is now working to commercialise Direct Air Capture technology alongside their Air to Fuels process, which uses water electrolysis and fuels synthesis to produce clean liquid hydrocarbon fuels that are drop-in compatible with existing transportation infrastructure.

Commenting on the next steps for this pioneering technology, Steve Oldham, CEO of CE, said:

“CE’s vision is to reduce the effects of climate change by first cutting emissions, then by reducing atmospheric CO2. Our clean fuel is fully compatible with existing engines, so it provides the transportation sector with a solution for significantly reducing emissions, either through blending or direct use. Out technology is scalable, flexible and demonstrated. Today, we’re actively seeking partners who will work with CE to dramatically reduce emissions in the transportation sector and help us move to a carbon-neutral economy.”

Could Direct Air Capture and Air to Fuels technology help us to combat anthropogenic climate change? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Tags: Engineering
Recent Comments
I like to know where you put out of the after processed "clear air"? Thanks.
James Xu, 14 June 2018
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Is it possible to extract carbon directly from the air? A new study says yes - Time to read 3 min
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