Canadian Business News

BC Company Claims Carbon From the Air Can Be Used as Fuel

A British Columbia based company said carbon emissions from the air can be used as fuel and use it for running vehicles like cars, trucks and even airplanes.

According to an article by the Canadian Press, the company says in newly published research that it can do this for less than one-third the cost of other companies working on the same technology.

“This isn’t a PowerPoint presentation, it’s real.” The article quoted Steve Oldham of Carbon Engineering, the company behind the claim.

This could be a major breakthrough and could bring positive impact on global warming discussions. Experts have long said that carbon has to be removed from the atmosphere to see changes in global warming.

In the peer-reviewed journal Joule, Carbon Engineering outlines what it calls direct air capture in which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere through a chemical process, then combined with hydrogen and oxygen to create fuel.

“If these aren’t renewable fuels, what are?” David Keith, professor of applied physics at Harvard University, lead author of the paper and principal in Carbon Engineering said.

The idea is not a new one; according to the article at least seven companies worldwide are working on the idea, while Swiss-based Climeworks has already built a commercial-scale plant.

However the difference is in the cost efficiency, while it costs Climeworks about US$600 a tonne to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon Engineering claims it can do the job for between US$94 and US$232 a tonne because it uses technology and components that are well understood and commercially available.

“We’re tapping into existing industrial equipment and then defining a new process and applying some unique chemistry to it,” the company executive said.

Carbon Engineering’s plant in Squamish, B.C. already derives about one tonne of carbon a day from the air and produces about two barrels of fuel. Since its components are off the rack, it should be easy to scale up, Oldham said.

Currently Carbon Engineering’s fuel costs about 25 per cent more than gasoline made from oil. The company said it is working to reduce prices. The carbon footprint of the process is around 70 percent lower than fossil fuels. The footprint is expected to go down and become almost carbon neutral if the plant ran on wind or solar generated electricity.  This type of fuel would work out well for long distance transport and various other purposes.

Carbon pricing has been one of the reasons this project has been successful.

Carbon pricing is a method favored by many economists for reducing global-warming and basically charges those who emit carbon dioxide (CO2) for their emissions.

The charge is called a carbon price and is the amount that must be paid for the right to emit one tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere. Carbon pricing usually takes the form either of a carbon tax or a requirement to purchase permits to emit, generally known as cap-and-trade, but also called “allowances”.

“We would not be in business if carbon pricing did not exist.” The company said adding that it is looking at building full-scale plant in the next two and a half years.

Making fuel from air can result in countries being dependent and not having to rely on buying oil from other countries.

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