Scientists are building a system that could turn atmospheric CO2 into fuel

Scientists in Canada are developing an industrial carbon dioxide recycling plant that could one day suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and convert it into a zero-carbon e-diesel fuel. Developed by tech start-up Carbon Engineering and partly funded by Bill Gates, the system will essentially do the job of trees, but in places unable to host them, such as icy plains and deserts.

Just like these new solar cells that are designed to split water into a hydrogen fuel, the CO2 recycling plant will combine carbon dioxide with hydrogen split from water to form hydrocarbon fuel. The plan is to provide the technology that could one day produce environmentally friendly fuel to complement the renewable energy systems we have now. “How do you power global transportation in 20 years in a way that is carbon neutral?” Geoff Holmes, business development manager at Carbon Engineering, told Marc Gunther at The Guardian. “Cheap solar and wind are great at reducing emissions from the electricity. Then you are left with the transport sector. Carbon Engineering is one of a handful of companies around the world that are now set on coming up with ways to suck enough carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to actually put a dent in the effects of climate change. There’s also the New York City-based start-up Global Thermostat, and Swiss-based Climeworks, which demonstrated earlier this year with Audi how its technology can capture carbon dioxide, and deliver it to German company Sunfire, where it was recycled into a zero-carbon diesel fuel

While Climeworks’ demonstration was impressive, what all three companies now need to do is figure out how to make their atmospheric carbon dioxide to fuel systems economically viable. And this won’t be easy. One problem they’re going to have to overcome is the high cost of heating their carbon dioxide to around 400 degrees Celsius so they can process it properly. Another problem is that few investors are interested in giving them money until they can prove that this is actually feasible.

As Gunther reports for The Guardian, governments and private investors aren’t interested in paying anyone to come up with ways to simply suck carbon dioxide out of the environment, no matter how beneficial to the environment it might be. Plus even if someone was interested, they’d better be willing to fork out the billions of dollars it’s going to take to build a system that could actually make a discernible difference to the world’s climate. These developers need to offer their investors something valuable in return, and the obvious answer is fuel.

co2-capture

Right now, Carbon Engineering’s planned system could only capture only about 450 tonnes of CO2 each year, which would barely cover the carbon emissions of 33 average Canadians, but they say this system could be scaled up to 20,000 times to make it more practical.

As the video explains below, direct air capture seems to be the only potentially feasible way to absorb carbon dioxide that’s already been emitted from small mobile sources such as cars, trucks, and planes, which make up 60 percent of carbon dioxide emissions today. The systems require 1,000 times less land than carbon-sucking trees, and can be installed on land, like desert plains, that isn’t worth cultivating or inhabiting.

“I believe we have reached a point where it is really paramount for substantive public research and development of direct air capture,” Klaus Lackner of Arizona State University’s Centre for Negative Carbon Emissions said at the American Physical Society meeting in the US earlier this year.

“Scientists are increasingly convinced that we are going to need large scale removal systems to fight climate change,” Noah Deich from the California-based Centre for Carbon Removal told The Guardian. “I’m excited about direct air capture. It could be a really important technology to add to the portfolio.”

Watch the video below to see how Carbon Engineering plans on doing it. It’s going to take a while before we see the captured carbon to fuel model become a viable solution, but that’s not stopping the likes of Carbon Engineering, Climeworks, and Global Thermostat. We’re excited to see what they come up with.

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Scientists are building a system that could turn atmospheric CO2 into fuel

A Canadian start-up is removing CO2 from the air and turning it into pellets

A pilot project to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and turn it into pellets that can either be used as fuel or stored underground for later has been launched by a Calgary-based start-up called Carbon Engineering.

While the test facility has so far only extracted 10 tonnes of CO2 since its launch back in June, its operations will help inform the construction of a $200 million commercial plant in 2017, which is expected to extract 1 million tonnes per day – the equivalent of taking 100 cars off the road every year. It plans to start selling CO2-based synthetic fuels by 2018.

“It’s now possible to take CO2 out of the atmosphere, and use it as a feed stock, with hydrogen, to produce net zero emission fuels,” company chief executive Adrian Corless told the AFP.

Funded by private investors, including billionaires Bill Gates and oil sands financier Murray Edwards, Carbon Engineering is not the only company in the world intent on solving our carbon dioxide problems, but it claims to be the first to demonstrate how its technology can be scaled up to have both an actual environmental impact and commercial potential.

Instead of tackling the CO2 that pours out of factory smokestacks – because there are existing machines that do this pretty well – the Carbon Engineering ‘direct air capture plant’ will deal with everyday carbon emissions from buildings, transportation, and agriculture. “Emissions from sources you just can’t otherwise capture,” Corless says.

“It’s still a pilot-scale plant,” he told CBC News. “But it’s very important, because it’s the first time that anyone’s demonstrated a technology that captures CO2 that has the potential to be scaled up to be large enough to be relevant from an environmental or climate point of view.”

As we reported back at the time of the test plant launch, direct air capture works just like these new solar cells that split water into a hydrogen fuel – the CO2 recycling plant extracts CO2 from the air using a giant complex of fans, and combines this with liquid hydrogen split from water. This mixture can then be converted into solid pellets of calcium carbonate, and either heated to between 800 and 900 degrees Celsius to release pure carbon for use as fuel, or stored for later.

CEProcessCarbon Engineering


According to CBC News,
the larger plant should be able to produce up to 400 litres of gasoline or diesel per day using this method. One of the main things it has going for it is that because it turns the CO2 into fuel, no change in infrastructure will be needed to power big fuel-guzzlers such as ships, planes, and long-haulage trucks. Even existing petrol pumps can work with the fuel. A major limitation of solar and wind technologies, on the other hand, is that they require specific technologies to capture and disperse energy.

“The nice thing about the technology is that there are no real limitations for it to ultimately, in theory, displace all of the existing fossil-based transportation fuels,”Corless said.

Going forward, the most important thing for Carbon Engineering to figure out is how to be commercially viable. As Kesavan Unnikrishnan points out at Digital Journal, carbon can cost anything from $1/tonne (Mexico and Poland) to $130/tonne (Sweden) around the world, and Carbon Engineering will need to sell its product at around $100/tonne to support itself commercially.

We’ll have to wait and see how things go for direct air capture in the future, but we’re so excited by its potential. Watch the video below to find out more about how it works:

Source: A Canadian start-up is removing CO2 from the air and turning it into pellets

A Canadian start-up is removing CO2 from the air and turning it into pellets

Scientists are building a system that could turn atmospheric CO2 into fuel

Scientists in Canada are developing an industrial carbon dioxide recycling plant that could one day suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and convert it into a zero-carbon e-diesel fuel. Developed by tech start-up Carbon Engineering and partly funded by Bill Gates, the system will essentially do the job of trees, but in places unable to host them, such as icy plains and deserts.

Just like these new solar cells that are designed to split water into a hydrogen fuel, the CO2 recycling plant will combine carbon dioxide with hydrogen split from water to form hydrocarbon fuel. The plan is to provide the technology that could one day produce environmentally friendly fuel to complement the renewable energy systems we have now. “How do you power global transportation in 20 years in a way that is carbon neutral?” Geoff Holmes, business development manager at Carbon Engineering, told Marc Gunther at The Guardian. “Cheap solar and wind are great at reducing emissions from the electricity. Then you are left with the transport sector.”Carbon Engineering is one of a handful of companies around the world that are now set on coming up with ways to suck enough carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to actually put a dent in the effects of climate change. There’s also the New York City-based start-up Global Thermostat, and Swiss-based Climeworks, which demonstrated earlier this year with Audi how its technology can capture carbon dioxide, and deliver it to German company Sunfire, where it was recycled into a zero-carbon diesel fuel.

While Climeworks’ demonstration was impressive, what all three companies now need to do is figure out how to make their atmospheric carbon dioxide to fuel systems economically viable. And this won’t be easy. One problem they’re going to have to overcome is the high cost of heating their carbon dioxide to around 400 degrees Celsius so they can process it properly. Another problem is that few investors are interested in giving them money until they can prove that this is actually feasible.

As Gunther reports for The Guardian, governments and private investors aren’t interested in paying anyone to come up with ways to simply suck carbon dioxide out of the environment, no matter how beneficial to the environment it might be. Plus even if someone was interested, they’d better be willing to fork out the billions of dollars it’s going to take to build a system that could actually make a discernible difference to the world’s climate. These developers need to offer their investors something valuable in return, and the obvious answer is fuel.

co2-capture

Right now, Carbon Engineering’s planned system could only capture only about 450 tonnes of CO2 each year, which would barely cover the carbon emissions of 33 average Canadians, but they say this system could be scaled up to 20,000 times to make it more practical.

As the video explains below, direct air capture seems to be the only potentially feasible way to absorb carbon dioxide that’s already been emitted from small mobile sources such as cars, trucks, and planes, which make up 60 percent of carbon dioxide emissions today. The systems require 1,000 times less land than carbon-sucking trees, and can be installed on land, like desert plains, that isn’t worth cultivating or inhabiting.

“I believe we have reached a point where it is really paramount for substantive public research and development of direct air capture,” Klaus Lackner of Arizona State University’s Centre for Negative Carbon Emissions said at the American Physical Society meeting in the US earlier this year.

“Scientists are increasingly convinced that we are going to need large scale removal systems to fight climate change,” Noah Deich from the California-based Centre for Carbon Removal told The Guardian. “I’m excited about direct air capture. It could be a really important technology to add to the portfolio.”

Watch the video below to see how Carbon Engineering plans on doing it. It’s going to take a while before we see the captured carbon to fuel model become a viable solution, but that’s not stopping the likes of Carbon Engineering, Climeworks, and Global Thermostat. We’re excited to see what they come up with.

Scientists are building a system that could turn atmospheric CO2 into fuel

Polar bears threatened: Experience limited energy savings in summer

A young polar bear stands on pack ice over deep waters in the Arctic Ocean in October 2009, during a major research project headed by the University of Wyoming.
Credit: Shawn Harper

Polar bears are unlikely to physiologically compensate for extended food deprivation associated with the ongoing loss of sea ice, according to one-of-its-kind research conducted by University of Wyoming scientists and others, and published today in the journal Science.

“We found that polar bears appear unable to meaningfully prolong their reliance on stored energy, confirming their vulnerability to lost hunting opportunities on the sea ice — even as they surprised us by also exhibiting an unusual ability to minimize heat loss while swimming in Arctic waters,” says John Whiteman, the UW doctoral student who led the project.

The loss of sea ice in the Arctic, which is outpacing predictions, has raised concern about the future of polar bears, leading to their listing as a globally threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2008. The bears depend on hunting seals on the surface of the sea ice over the continental shelf, most successfully from April to July. In parts of the polar bears’ range, the lengthening period of sea ice retreat from shelf waters — caused by increasing temperatures — can reduce their opportunities to hunt seals, leading to declines in bear nutritional condition.

Some earlier research suggested that polar bears could, at least partially, compensate for longer summer food deprivation by entering a state of lowered activity and reduced metabolic rate similar to winter hibernation — a so-called “walking hibernation.” But the new research shows that the summer activity and body temperature of bears on shore and on ice were typical of fasting, non-hibernating mammals, with little indication of “walking hibernation.”

Whiteman and his colleagues concluded in theSciencepublication: “This suggests that bears are unlikely to avoid deleterious declines in body condition, and ultimately survival, that are expected with continued ice loss and lengthening of the ice-melt period.”

The researchers reached that conclusion by capturing more than two dozen polar bears, implanting temperature loggers and tracking their subsequent movements on shore and on ice in the Arctic Ocean’s Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska and Canada, during 2008-2010. The unprecedented effort, logistically supported by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and funded by the National Science Foundation, USGS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, required the assistance of numerous personnel, multiple helicopters and deployment of the U.S. Coast Guard ice-breaker, the Polar Sea.

“Many colleagues — even some on our research team — doubted whether the study was possible, until we actually did it,” says Merav Ben-David, the UW professor who developed the research plan along with Professor Hank Harlow, an eco-physiologist and colleague in the Department of Zoology and Physiology, and Steve Amstrup, previously with the USGS and currently the chief scientist at Polar Bears International. “This project was logistically so intense that it may never be replicated.”

At the same time, the scientists found that polar bears use an unusual physiological response to avoid unsustainable heat loss while swimming in the cold Arctic waters. To maintain an interior body temperature that allows them to survive longer and nowadays more frequent swims, the bears temporarily cool the outermost tissues of their core to form an insulating shell — a phenomenon called regional heterothermy.

“This regional heterothermy may represent an adaption to long-distance swims, although its limits remain unknown,” wrote the scientists, who in an earlier publication — in the journalPolar Biology— noted that one of the bears in the study survived a nine-day, 400-mile swim from shore to ice. When recaptured seven weeks later, the bear had lost 22 percent of her body mass, as well as her cub.

By shedding light on potential mechanisms that facilitated that bear’s survival during her long swim, as well as the overall metabolism and activity of bears, the current study “profoundly contributes to understanding the value of summer habitats used by polar bears in terms of their energetics,” Harlow says. Amstrup adds, “It fills a gap in our otherwise extensive knowledge of polar bear ecology and corroborates previous findings that the key to polar bear conservation is arresting the decline of their sea ice habitat.”

In addition to Whiteman, Ben-David, Harlow and Amstrup, co-authors of theSciencepaper are Research Zoologist George Durner of the USGS Alaska Science Center and Wildlife Biologist Eric Regehr of the USFWS Marine Mammals Management in Alaska, both previously Ph.D. students at UW, who also participated in project development and execution; and Professor Richard Anderson-Sprecher of UW’s Department of Statistics and Research Scientist Shannon Albeke of UW’s Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center, who contributed to data analyses.

Additional support for the project was provided by the UW Program in Ecology and Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium. Consultation with key Inuit communities in Alaska and Canada ensured the successful completion of the study.

Source: University of Wyoming. “Polar bears threatened: Experience limited energy savings in summer.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 July 2015

Polar bears threatened: Experience limited energy savings in summer