Pilot plant demonstrates low-priced conversion of Carbon dioxide into fuel

Facility for capturing CO2 from air of Swiss Climeworks AG in Hinwil

This new technology which was found by the researchers is said to have a different path to cut back the carbon dioxide in the air which causes global warming and climate change.

The basic concept, known as "direct air capture", or DAC, has been around for some time.

The idea was first developed by a scientist called Klaus Lackner in the mid 1990s and since then a small number of technology companies have built expensive prototypes of carbon removing devices. Now, a team of Harvard scientists say they've found a way to do something equally miraculous: transforming Carbon dioxide from the air we breathe into gasoline.

"Until now, research suggested it would cost $600 per ton...making it too expensive to be a feasible solution to removing legacy carbon at scale", said Harvard Prof.

Keith explains it like a relatively straightforward process, but Carbon Engineering have been working on the problem of affordably capturing CO2 at a pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia since 2015. The solution reacts with Carbon dioxide to produce potassium carbonate.

After several processing steps, a purer stream of Carbon dioxide is extracted and the capturing liquid is returned to the air contactor. The last comprehensive analysis of the technology, conducted by the American Physical Society in 2011, estimated that it would cost $600 per tonne.

The goal is to turn carbon in the air into fuel for cars, boats, and planes.

David Keith, the Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, thinks it can be done for a lot less.

'I hope to show that this as a viable energy industrial technology, not something that is a magic bullet. but something that is completely doable, ' he told Reuters of the peer-reviewed study published in the journal Joule. After heating and chemical reactions, the carbon dioxide can be extracted - and used either for making fuel or for storage.

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Carbon Engineering is now building a larger plant that will produce around 200 barrels of synthethic fuel a day and which should be fully operational in 2020.

The firm believes that this approach to liquid fuel has major advantages over biofuels in that it uses far less land and water. Depending on a variety of design options and economic assumptions, the cost of pulling a tonne of Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere ranges between US$94 and $232.

The CO2 could be pumped into reserves underground, but Carbon Engineering wants to convert the CO2 into fuel. "The biggest challenge we are facing is, however, that the words agreed on in the Paris agreement must be followed by actions", said Edda.

United Nations reports indicate that governments may have to deploy such novel technologies this century to remove carbon from nature and bury it to limit global warming under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

In an interview with The Atlantic, Keith said he is now looking for additional funding to set up an industrial grade plant that could be up and running by 2021.

However he believes the question of decarbonising aviation and heavy transportation can not be met by electric vehicles alone.

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