Saturday, August 4, 2018

Carbon extraction becoming commercially viable

Sucking carbon dioxide from air is cheaper than scientists thought - Jeff Tollefson, Nature:

June 7, 2018 - "Siphoning carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere could be more than an expensive last-ditch strategy for averting climate catastrophe. A detailed economic analysis published on 7 June suggests that the geoengineering technology is inching closer to commercial viability.

"The study, in Joule, was written by researchers at Carbon Engineering in Calgary, Canada, which has been operating a pilot CO2-extraction plant in British Columbia since 2015. That plant — based on a concept called direct air capture — provided the basis for the economic analysis, which includes cost estimates from commercial vendors of all of the major components. Depending on a variety of design options and economic assumptions, the cost of pulling a tonne of CO2 from the atmosphere ranges between US$94 and $232. The last comprehensive analysis of the technology, conducted by the American Physical Society in 2011, estimated that it would cost $600 per tonne.....

"'We’re really trying to commercialize direct air capture in a serious way, and to do that, you have to have everybody in the supply chain on board,' says David Keith, acting chief scientist at Carbon Engineering and a climate physicist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"Founded in 2009, Carbon Engineering is one of a few companies pursuing direct air capture technologies. One competitor, Climeworks in Zurich, Switzerland, opened a commercial facility last year that can capture 900 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year for use in greenhouses. Climeworks has also opened a second facility in Iceland that can capture 50 tonnes of CO2 a year and bury it in underground basalt formations.

"Climeworks says that capturing a tonne of CO2 at its Swiss plant costs about $600. Company officials expect the figure to dip below $100 per tonne in 5-10 years as operations ramp up. In the meantime, Carbon Engineering’s paper provides the most detailed look yet at the cost of such technology....

"In the end, the economics of CO2 extraction will depend on factors that vary by location, including the price of energy and whether or not a company can access government subsidies. But the cost per tonne is still likely to remain above the market price of carbon for the foreseeable future.... But CO2-extraction technology could gain a foothold in markets where the CO2 can be sold at a premium, or converted into a useful product like fuel....

"Carbon Engineering hopes to build a small facility that can produce 200 barrels of fuel per day by 2021, and then a commercial plant that can produce 2,000 barrels per day. 'This is completely doable industrial technology,' [Keith] says. 'We just need to begin, set up markets and see what happens.'”

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