A small Canadian firm has developed a carbon capture technology which can remove carbon directly from the atmosphere to producing a type of recycled diesel and jet fuel. The company has been successfully running a fully functioning pilot site in Canada since last year and last month the company raised another $68 million in venture capital funds to take its process to the next level. From the Financial Post:
The Squamish, B.C.-based company announced Thursday it had closed another equity financing round and raised US$68 million, which it describes as the largest private investment to date in technology that captures carbon directly from the air…
The latest funds will allow Carbon Engineering to bring its technology, which has been pilot tested in Squamish, to market at a commercial scale, [CEO Steve] Oldham said. The company will also expand its pilot project in Squamish and engineer its first commercial facilities…
A commercial negative-emissions plant by Carbon Engineering would occupy 30 acres of land and scrub one megaton of CO2 from the atmosphere per year, which Oldham said is equivalent to planting 40 million trees.
The company says its chemical process to remove carbon dioxide from the air costs under $100 per tonne. The BBC describes the process:
CO2 is a powerful warming gas but there’s not a lot of it in the atmosphere – for every million particles of air, there are 410 of CO2…
Carbon Engineering’s barn-sized installation has a large fan in the middle of the roof which draws in air from the atmosphere.
It then comes into contact with a hydroxide-based chemical solution. Certain hydroxides react with carbon dioxide, reversibly binding to the CO2 molecule. When the CO2 in the air reacts with the liquid, it forms a carbonate mixture. That is then treated with a slurry of calcium hydroxide to change it into solid form; the slurry helps form tiny pellets of calcium carbonate.
The chalky calcium carbonate pellets are then treated at a high temperature of about 900C, with the pellets decomposing into a CO2 stream and calcium oxide.
That stream of pure CO2 is cleaned up to remove water impurities.
That captured CO2 can be pumped into the ground either as a way to force more oil out of existing wells or to simply bury it and take it out of circulation. And by utilizing a separate process, the CO2 from the air can be converted into a liquid capable of replacing diesel or jet fuel. In this Vice video report, CEO Steve Oldham argues that rather than try to replace every car with an electric model (or replace air travel with trains as AOC’s office has suggested) it makes more sense to simply use recycled carbon to run existing cars, trucks and planes on carbon-neutral fuel.
Oldham says in this clip that you would need tens of thousands of these capture stations to bring current net-emissions to zero. That’s a vast undertaking that’s very unlikely to happen in the next 12 years, but it’s a reminder that there are technological alternatives to canceling cows and grounding airplanes.