Last updated July 17, 2018 at 9:32 am
Canadians say there’s a way to make fuel from the air.
Engineers have developed what they say is a cost-effective way of pulling carbon dioxide from the air to create carbon-neutral fuels that are compatible with existing fuel networks and vehicles.
The process works by direct air capture; giant fans draw ambient air into contact with an aqueous solution that picks out and traps CO2. Add heat and chemical reactions, and that same CO2 can be re-extracted and made into petrol, diesel and jet fuel.
It’s the work of Canadian company Carbon Engineering, whose chief scientist, David Keith, is also a professor of applied physics and public policy at Harvard University.
“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 decarbonise the transportation sector,” he said.
Capture on an ‘impactful scale’
The idea of direct air capture is not new, but Keith says successful implementation of a scalable, cost-effective working pilot plant is. He estimates that capture on an “impactful scale” will cost US$94-$232 per tonne of CO2 captured. Estimates have ranged up to $1000 per tonne in theoretical analyses.
And, he says, making fuels that are easy to store and transport eases the challenge of integrating renewables into the energy system.
Carbon Engineering is confident the pieces are in place to move on to full-size plants capable of manufacturing 2000 barrels of fuel a day.
“After 100 person years of practical engineering and cost analysis, we can confidently say that while air capture is not some magical cheap solution, it is a viable and buildable technology for producing carbon-neutral fuels in the immediate future and for removing carbon in the long run,” Keith said.
The paper published in Joule.