Taking CO2 out of the air is more economical than scientists thought

Maybe we can afford to suck CO2 out of the sky after all

Rather than storing the captured carbon, Carbon Engineering uses it to create a synthetic fuel with hydrogen, which is pulled from water using renewable energy.

The next step in the process is to have enough plants to produce the necessary barrels of carbon-free fuel, in order to drive down the costs even more.

The 2015-built Carbon Engineering pilot plant on the Squamish waterfront.

In 2011, the American Physical Society published a research showing that the costs to remove Carbon dioxide from the air would be $600.

'Direct air capture is a politically promising route for carbon dioxide removal, ' said Oliver Geden, of the German Institute for global and Security Affairs.

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

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reported in 2016 that electrolysis using wind power could provide hydrogen at a cost of about $4.50 per kilogram.

At present by far and away the biggest source of Carbon dioxide emissions are fossil fuels such as cars and power stations with the two biggest contributors being China and the United States.

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

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.

In an interview this week, Herzog complimented the detailed analysis in the new study, but said he remains skeptical of some of its financial assumptions. Swiss-based Climeworks has already built a commercial-scale plant.

"We're not developing a fundamentally new product or unit operation", said Keith. "I still think a final number could be several times as much". The APS had costs of 780 $/t-CO2-avoided and 550 $/t- CO2-captured, where the emission from electricity supply outside the plant boundary.

Clean fuel generated at Carbon Engeering's pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia.

Direct air capture is pretty much what it sounds like: a large fan draws in lots of air and essentially filters it through a liquid solution which captures any Carbon dioxide it comes in contact with.

Carbon Engineering is now building a larger plant that will produce around 200 barrels of synthethic fuel a day and which should be fully operational in 2020.

Levels of carbon dioxide go up and down each year, reaching their highest levels in May and then going back down in the fall as plants absorb the gas. It's now seeking additional funds to build a larger facility that will begin selling fuels, though still on a relatively small scale.

And an air capture plant could be built nearly anywhere.

One of the great benefits of making fuel from air is energy independence, said Oldham. Doing that on a large scale would nearly surely require significant cost reductions, a high price on carbon, or other public policy support. The company claims that its scaled-up air-to-fuel system would be able to produce gasoline at about $1 per liter ($3.80 per gallon).

"It's very tough, and even tougher if the Carbon dioxide is from your most expensive source, which is the air", he says.

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