Sucking Carbon Dioxide from the Air to Produce Gasoline? - Hit & Run

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Carbon Engineering says the technique unveiled today has already been implemented at its small, pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia. A Canadian company is entering the race to suck carbon from the sky and turn it into automotive fuels.

Keith is founder of British Columbia-based Carbon Engineering, a firm that has received critical start-up funding from Bill Gates.

There's a way to kill climate change for good: recycle the carbon dioxide in the air and then reuse it instead of adding more. So the company chose to make a carbon-neutral liquid fuel, said Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering.

As policy-makers work on ways to try to keep global warming within the two-degree limit of the Paris agreement, fears have been raised that carbon dioxide emissions won't be cut fast enough.

It aims at the eventual construction of a vast, industrial-scale network of carbon scrubbers, capable of removing greenhouse gases directly from the atmosphere.

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Canadian clean energy company Carbon Engineering, in partnership with researchers from Harvard, used little more than limestone, hydrogen and air for the process, which can remove one metric ton of CO2 for as little as $94, the scientists say.

In a peer-reviewed paper published Thursday, Harvard University physicist David Keith described breakthroughs in "direct air capture" (DAC) technology achieved by Squamish-based Carbon Engineering Ltd., which he co-founded in 2009.

At least seven companies worldwide are working on the idea.

The plant has been operational since 2015, and it began converting its captured carbon dioxide into fuels late a year ago.

It costs Climeworks about US$600 a tonne to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon Engineering proudly says that cutting the costs to such an extent is a "real step forward".

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"We're tapping into existing industrial equipment and then defining a new process and applying some unique chemistry to it", said Oldham. The resulting fuel could be made at a relatively low cost of just USD$1 per litre.

"This isn't some new clever piece of science or weird chemical we synthesized in some fancy lab", Keith said in an interview. 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. Oldham said work is being done to reduce that. The company has been sucking carbon dioxide from the air since 2015 and producing fuel at a pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia, since since the end of a year ago.

"As we look to the future of clean energy, we must invest in innovative, secure, and low-carbon technologies-especially in rural communities", Bennet said in a press release.

That footprint would shrink further if the plant were all-electric. "By making the fuel carbon neutral, the entire transportation sector can become carbon neutral without changing all of the infrastructure - we don't all have to get a new vehicle, we don't have to replace every gas station with an electric grid for charging". CE's AIR TO FUELS™ technology is created to decarbonize the transportation sector and provide fuel sustainability within a circular economy.

That's important because solar and wind power continue to get cheaper, even powering entire cities, but Keith says that "doesn't allow us to make airplanes fly and trucks drive".

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