Ticking Time Bomb

Fuel from CO2 ?

Imagine driving up to your local gas station and being able to choose between regular, premium, or carbon-free gasoline.

Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company, is already making a liquid fuel by sucking carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere and combining it with hydrogen from water. This is an engineering breakthrough on two fronts: A potentially cost-effective way to take CO2 out of the atmosphere to fight climate change and a potentially cost-competitive way to make gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel that doesn’t add any additional CO2 to the atmosphere.

“This isn’t going to save the world from the impacts of climate change, but it’s going to be a big step on the path to a low-carbon economy,” said David Keith, a Harvard Professor of Applied Physics and founder of Carbon Engineering. Keith said capturing CO2 from the air and making fuel didn’t require scientific breakthroughs per se as much as $30 million, eight years of engineering, and a “million little details” to get the process right.

Getting it right also meant keeping the costs below $100 for each ton of CO2 removed from the atmosphere. The design and engineering cost of the pilot project that’s been running since 2015 in Squamish, British Columbia, was published today in the peer-reviewed energy journal Joule. The company used existing industrial processes to scale up and reduce costs.

“Our paper shows the costs and engineering for a full-scale plant that could capture one million tons of CO2 a year,” Keith said.

 
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