There are a lot more options out there, but this one is the most interesting of them all: CO2 gasoline. Really, what’s better than getting a gasoline made from something that’s emitted from vehicles? We basically take out CO2 out of the air to reduce climate change, and we use them as a fuel that won’t add more CO2 to the atmosphere.
Cleaning CO2 is not a cost-effective solution. A removal called “direct air capture” costs $600 per ton, while the world contributes 40 billion tonnes of CO2 every year. And even though the price is lowered to $100 per ton, there are not enough CO2 buyers.
From this fact, a Canadian company called Carbon Engineering make carbon neutral liquid fuel from carbon dioxide. The CEO of the company, Steve Oldham, explained that they combine captured CO2 with hydrogen (they get it through the electrolysis of water).
They collect CO2 by using liquid sorbent as opposed to solid sorbent. Studies show that this method is more advantageous, because liquid sorbent machine is easier and more cost-effective to build and they can operate repeatedly.
This process requires a lot of electricity, but the company uses renewable hydro power. And the result is synthetic fuel which can be used on its own as gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel, but it’s also blendable. And the great thing is that when you burn this fuel, it releases the same amount of CO2 that went into the production, making it carbon neutral.
With this, some places can find a more cost-effective ways to clear out CO2 out of the system. Klaus Lackner, a pioneer of the direct air capture of CO2, said that Carbon Engineering has proven that CO2 sucking is feasible and efficient. He also added that this is an important step for the industry. “I’m excited by the project. The numbers in Joule (a peer-reviewed energy journal) look good,” said Lackner.
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David Keith, the founder of this company and a Harvard Professor of Applied Physics, said that getting CO2 from the atmosphere and producing synthetic fuel isn’t a difficult thing. He said it didn’t need extensive scientific breakthroughs that costs $30 million, eight years of engineering, and details to get the process right.
There might be an explanation to why this company can get CO2 from the air at lower cost. Carbon Engineering uses technology and components which are commercially available and not complicated or understandable. For example, the component that pulls CO2 out of the air uses membranes from air cooler industry, and you can easily find it in water coolers.
Admittedly, this fuel costs more than gasoline made from oil (around 25 cent more). To make this fuel more accessible to the public, the company needs to take it up a notch and add more plants. This way, they will produce a lot more barrels of carbon-neutral fuel and reduce the costs a lot more. When prices fall, governments could easily cooperate on taking CO2 out of the air.
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That is, fortunately, what the company is doing. Keith said that Carbon Engineering is building a larger plant. They utilize renewable energy and they can produce 200 barrels of gasoline per day. Keith added that this plan should set in motion in 2020.
Oldham said that this project was scalable and would have world-wide markets. “All you need is air and water as feedstocks, and some electricity,” the CEO added. Other than the things he mentioned, the company also needs license to their technology.
Now, carbon dioxide isn’t always that bad. This gas absorbs the sun’s energy and redirects it to Earth, making the planet warm. However, since humanity is producing a lot more CO2 than the world can expect, it becomes a problem. Earth gets warmer, climate changes, leading to a daunting ticking clock that can destroy it sooner or later.
Carbon Engineering is confident that the company’s technology can mitigate or even solve climate crisis. Oldham said, “I don’t just believe it, I know it. This is based upon an existing facility. This is not a PowerPoint calculation. It’s a real facility. We’ve done real testing. We’re using real equipment from real suppliers that we’ve talked to.”
He also added the clean fuel will work with any existing vehicle. So Carbon Engineering will change the transportation industry using cars, buses, jets, and any other vehicles that exist now. No need to have special vehicle like H2O-fueled car.
“It’s drop-in compatible. You can fill up that vehicle, and now that vehicle is carbon neutral, so that solves the problem of de-carbonizing the transportation sector, but no change. No change to cars, no change to gas stations,” Oldham reiterated.
As for now, the company pulls around one ton of carbon a day from the atmosphere and they make two barrels of fuel. But since the technology and components are from something that you can find easily, doubling the amount will not be a problem.
According to Oldham, the great thing about making fuel out of air is energy independence and it’s a great opportunity. What we need is only water, sunlight, and air to make fuel. Provided this fact, it’s easy to make fuel wherever you want. You can relocate your plant everywhere as long as you’ve got those three things.
In the end, Oldham said, “This is a real step forward, and it’s not just our company saying it. I hope this changes views about this technology from being this thing which people think is a magic savior, which it isn’t, or that it is absurdly expensive, which it isn’t, to an industrial technology that is doable and can be developed in a useful way.”
What’s your take on this? Do you think CO2 will be significantly reduced and there’ll be balance on Earth? Or do you think this is an utopia that can lead to a dystopia? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
This Canadian company wants to solve the climate crisis by sucking CO2 out of the sky