Capturing carbon from atmosphere getting cheaper, shows study

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A detailed economic analysis by researchers says that the estimated cost of directly capturing carbon from the atmosphere to fight climate change has plunged down and is now inching closer to commercial viability.

The researchers at Carbon Engineering in Calgary, who published the report in Jourle on June 7, have been operating a pilot CO2- extraction plant in British Columbia since 2015.

The geoengineering plant operates on a  concept called direct air capture(DAC). Acting like artificial trees, DAC systems are capable of separating carbon dioxide directly from the air.

They extract CO2 from the air by a closed chemical loop and delivers a purified compressed stream of CO2.

The study puts the estimated cost of capturing a tonne of CO2  from the atmosphere between US$94 and US$232. An analysis in 2011 by the American Physical Society had put the figure at  $600 per tonne.

“Our technology, now proven with successive prototype and pilot demonstrations, can scale up to capture one million tons of CO2, per year with commercial scale facility,” claims the researchers of Carbon Engineering.

Carbon Engineering further believes that they will be able to achieve costs $100-$150 USD per tonne of CO2 captured, purified and compressed.

Climeworks, a Zurich based company, also indulged in capturing CO2 from air , opened a commercial facility last year that can capture about 900 tonnes of CO2.

“Our direct air capture approach has several advantages over the carbon removal technologies: it does not require water or depend on arable land, has a small physical footprint and is scalable,” says Climeworks.

The carbon dioxide extracted from the environment can be used in key markets like food and beverages, commercial agriculture, energy sector and the automotive industry.

By 2021, Carbon Engineering hopes to build a small facility that can produce 200 barrels of fuels a day and a commercial plant that can produce about 2000 barrels a day. Once made commercially viable, Carbon Engineering says that it will be able to create clean fuel out of air, compatible with today’s transportation, infrastructure and engines.

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