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Capturing Carbon Dioxide From The Air Is Becoming A More Affordable Solution To Climate Change

Jun 07, 2018 11:15 PM EDT
Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Researchers offer a way to suck the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reusing them in order to keep from adding more from fossil fuels.
(Photo : Ralf Vetterle | Pixabay)

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.

With the rising amount of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, this is progress that's worth developing. However, for a long time, the technology for this type of operation has been far too expensive. Scientists in a new study found a way to keep costs down and achieve the same goals in the future.

The study, published in the journal Joule, explains how carbon dioxide can be pulled from the air and then turned into fuel. With this groundbreaking method, the transportation industry's carbon footprint can significantly drop without disrupting existing vehicles today.

Carbon Dioxide Extraction

Carbon dioxide can be sucked from the air by giant fans with an aqueous solution. Then it's prepped for other uses by heating and other chemical reactions.

"The carbon dioxide generated via direct air capture can be combined with sequestration for carbon removal, or it can enable the production of carbon-neutral hydrocarbons, which is a way to take low-cost carbon-free power sources like solar or wind and channel them into fuels that can be used to decarbonize the transportation sector," David Keith, lead study author and professor from Harvard University, explains in a statement.

Keith is also the founder of the company Carbon Engineering, which is a Canada-based enterprise for clean fuels and CO2 capture. Carbon Engineering's British Columbia facility is already implementing CO2 capture as well as fuel generation.

A Price Point For Larger Scale Operations

Air capture technology has been around for a while, but it was originally wildly expensive, theoretically costing up to $1,000 for every ton of captured CO2. In the new study, Keith's team estimates the process to be just $94 to $232 per ton.

This is cheap enough for the technology to be operated for transportation, which accounts for about 20 percent of carbon emissions in the entire world.

What makes the technology promising is also the virtually unlimited amount of carbon dioxide that can keep the transportation industry running. After all, humans have been causing emissions for centuries, and it's unlikely that it will ever run out, according to Steve Oldham, Carbon Engineering CEO.

The company is equipped to manufacture a lot of fuel: 2,000 or so barrels every day, which adds up to more than 30 million gallons every year in different plants.

Keith says that Carbon Engineering is confident that even if their direct air capture tech is not just a cheap, magical solution, it can be "a viable and buildable technology for producing carbon-neutral fuels in the immediate future and for removing carbon in the long run."

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