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

Do You Live in a Climate Change Hotspot?

Spaceborne Carbon Counter Map

Nearly half of all human carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by plants, and NASA is monitoring this absorption.

Carbon dioxide or CO2 emissions into our planet’s atmosphere is causing climate change — a major problem that humans need to tackle and adapt to.  It is leading to warmer atmospheric temperatures, warmer and more acidic oceans, rising sea-levels, and changing and extreme weather patterns.  Although nations across the globe have committed to reducing carbon emissions, emissions will not slow in the near future, and CO2concentrations will continue to rise.

An alarming fact is that CO2 concentrations are the highest they have been in 400,000 years, and we are on track to cross the CO2 threshold of 400 parts per million (ppm).  This threshold does not mean there is going to be a climate catastrophe, but it does signal the importance of fighting climate change and how government inaction has only lead to worsening global impacts.

Luckily for us, CO2 concentrations would be much higher if it were not for plants that absorb nearly half of all human emissions each year.  NASA is very interested in this part of the carbon system and is now monitoring and tracking the absorption of CO2 by the land and ocean.

“Some years, almost all of it stays in the atmosphere and some years almost none of it remains in the atmosphere.  So in those years it must be absorbed into the ocean and land,” said Mike Freilich, the head of NASA’s Earth Science Division.

 

NASA scientists have been tracking CO2 movement using models and satellites such as NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2).  “OCO-2 gathers 100,000 high quality measurements of CO2 across the globe daily,” said Annmarie Eldering, deputy project scientist of OCO-2.  The instruments used on the satellite are so sensitive that they can detect changes as small as 1 ppm over any location, allowing scientists to determine potential COhotspots.

For example, data from OCO-2 shows that there has been more CO2 over the tropical Pacific Ocean since the spring.  Scientists are unsure if this is related to our current El-Niño which is known for creating above average ocean and atmospheric temperatures, but the results are different from previously collected data.

Why is it so important to monitor and track this absorbed CO2?  Not only will it help scientists understand how the absorption of CO2 by plants may change with a changing climate, according to Lesley Ott, a NASA research who works on the carbon modeling, “The motivation of all of this is to make models better and predict how the carbon cycle is going to change over the coming years.”

The problem of climate change can no longer be ignored, and improved CO2 modeling will hopefully influence policymakers to make scientifically-informed decisions to protect our planet for generations to come.

Source: Do You Live in a Climate Change Hotspot?

Do You Live in a Climate Change Hotspot?

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

If we protect our soils and manage them sustainably we can combat climate change.

A look at how our Soils help to combat climate change in their role of sequestering CO2, and how our collective habits can damage this benefit with potentially devastating consequences.

If we protect our soils and manage them sustainably we can combat climate change.

New CO2 recycler captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turns it back into fuel

British Columbia start-up, Carbon Engineering is now developing technology to suck the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and save it for fuel and other applications.

It works similar to trees, but can be implemented on land unable to host tree growth, like deserts and ice.  The carbon dioxide can be processed with hydrogen, captured from water, and combined to form hydrocarbons in the way of jet fuel and gasoline, which can then be reused. The carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere when it’s burned and captured again in a self sustaining process, powered by renewable energy.

The company is currently constructing the “wet end” of their demo plant.  This is the part that circulates liquid to scrub CO2 from the air and concentrates the product in solid calcium carbonate pellets.

Source: New CO2 recycler captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turns it back into fuel 

New CO2 recycler captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turns it back into fuel

This Is How The World’s Climate Changed Last Year

The state of the world’s climate is complex enough that it takes 413 scientists from 58 countries half a year to completely summarize a year’s worth of data.

And 2014 was a doozy.

According to the American Meteorological Society and NOAA’s “State of the Climate in 2014″report, several markers measuring the earth’s climatic trends set historical records. This is the 25th year that scientists have provided this report, and it was full of hundreds of pages of detailed atmospheric and oceanic summaries of what’s happening to our air, land, and water.

“The year 2014 was forecast to be a warm year, and it was by all accounts a very warm year, in fact record warm according to four independent observational datasets,” the report said. The reason: “the radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases continued to increase, owing to rising levels of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other radiatively active trace gases.”

The world’s experts know that climate change is happening, and why, and provide reports like these every year spelling out the impacts in excruciating detail.

“The variety of indicators shows us how our climate is changing, not just in temperature but from the depths of the oceans to the outer atmosphere,” said Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

For those without the time to peruse nearly 300 pages of scientific summaries, here are seven records that fell in 2014.

Heat

Average temperature in 2014 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Adapted from Plate 2.1c in State of the Climate in 2014.

Average temperature in 2014 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Adapted from Plate 2.1c in State of the Climate in 2014.

Though the world knew this back in January thanks to NOAA data, the report confirmed, and elaborated upon, the certainty around the record broken by 2014 as the hottest year on record.

With the glaring exception of the eastern North American continent, many countries — more than 20 — broke high temperature records last year. Much of Europe and Mexico had their hottest years, while Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, and much of Africa came close.

“Australia’s annual mean temperature anomaly, with respect to 1961–90, was +0.91°C, making 2014 the third warmest year for the country since national temperature records began in 1910,” the report said. The year before, 2013, was the hottest year on record.

With emissions continuing and El Nino coming on strong, it should not be a surprise that 2015 looks to easily break 2014’s global average surface temperature record.

Sea Levels

To convey the surreality of their findings, G.C. Johnson and A.R. Parsons, the authors of the Global Oceans section of the report used a tactic uncommon in climatology. Haikus. Haikus for sea level rise and rising temperatures.

Not quite El Niño,
North Oceans’ fluxes, warmth shift,
dance with weird weather.

Seas warm, ice caps melt,
waters rise, sour, rains shift salt,
unceasing, worldwide.

Measuring average global sea level is fantastically complex stuff. Winds can move large volumes of water around, temperature shifts can make the ocean shrink in some places and not others, while the daily tides, currents, and other variables conspire together to sabotage an accurate reading. So experts use a variety of different measurements and data streams to get something accurate and useful. And it told them that 2014 broke another sea level record.

slr

“Owing to both ocean warming and land ice melt contributions, global mean sea level in 2014 was also record high and 67 mm greater than the 1993 annual mean, when satellite altimetry measurements began,” the report said.

Sea levels do not rise when icebergs or ice sheets floating in them melt — the water has already been displaced. Melting land ice does make sea levels rise, and this is the cause of sea level rise that most people know. However, the heat being pumped into the oceans from the greenhouse effect not only increases the temperature, it also causes the water to expand, which makes sea levels rise.

Hot Days, Warm Nights

daysnights

Most of Europe had excessively large numbers of hot days and nights — daily maxima and minima. Several countries set records for warmest annual values.

“These continuous warm anomalies contributed to 2014 seeing the largest frequency of warm days and nights on record: on a continental average over a quarter of days (and nights) had temperatures in the warmest 10% of the climatological (1961–90) temperature distribution,” the report said.

The winter minimum in most of Alaska was also the warmest on record, which helped it break its regional heat record.

Storms In Hot Water

“Across the major tropical cyclone basins, 91 named storms were observed during 2014, above the 1981–2010 global average of 82,” the report said. “The Eastern/Central Pacific and South Indian Ocean basins experienced significantly above-normal activity in 2014; all other basins were either at or below normal.”

By many accounts, however, 2014 was a weak year for tropical cyclones, especially compared to the large number of strong storms in 2013. But the strong cyclones of 2014 were often extremely powerful.

Of the 91 named storms, seven became Category 5 systems: Marie and Genevieve, Cyclone Gillian, and then Super Typhoons Halong, Vongfong, Nuri, and Hagupit.

“The rate of typhoons that reached super typhoon status in 2014 was 67%, exceeding the previous record rate of 58% in 1970,” the report noted. Usually, only 23 percent of normal typhoons can hit super typhoon intensity each year.

Yearly mean Optimal Interpolation of Sea Surface Temperature anomaly.

Yearly mean Optimal Interpolation of Sea Surface Temperature anomaly.

One factor at play is extremely high ocean surface temperatures.

“But it was the oceans that drove the record global surface temperature in 2014,” the report said. “Although 2014 was largely ENSO-neutral [EL Niño Southern Oscillation], the globally averaged sea surface temperature (SST) was the highest on record.”

Disappearing Glaciers

“In higher latitudes and at higher elevations, increased warming continued to be visible in the decline of glacier mass balance, increasing permafrost temperatures, and a deeper thawing layer in seasonally frozen soil,” the report said. This was particularly dramatic in Greenland. Warm temperatures melt ice faster than snowfall can replenish it, and darker melt pools on the top of the glaciers absorb more energy from the sun than frozen white ice.

This has been going on for decades, and the rate has been accelerating:

glacierloss

The World Glacier Monitoring Service received preliminary data from Argentina, Austria, Chile, China, France, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. It indicated that for the 31st consecutive year, the world saw no “positive annual balances,” of the water stored by glaciers. Specifically, the earth saw the loss of 0.853 meters of water equivalent — “the equivalent depth of water resulting from snow or ice melt.”

Since 1980, that cumulative mass balance loss hit 16.8 meters in 2014.

Pollution

The report said carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide all hit record concentrations in the atmosphere last year, as they have for essentially each year beforehand.

“Carbon dioxide increased by 1.9 ppm [parts per million] to reach a globally averaged value of 397.2 ppm for 2014,” the abstract began. “Altogether, 5 major and 15 minor greenhouse gases contributed 2.94 W/m² of direct radiative forcing, which is 36% greater than their contributions just a quarter century ago.”

ghgemissionschart

Some climate watchers are familiar with the Keeling Curve, which has plotted the carbon dioxide concentration readings taken from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii since 1958. In 2013, the tracker passed above 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history, and each year since, more days have been spent above that symbolic number.

Using other measurements to supplement the data, the report estimated that the 2014 global average was 397.2 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, a 1.9 ppm bump from 2013. This year, the number will continue its inexorable climb, unless global emissions slow significantly.

One graph unknown to most is the methane concentration graph, let alone the nitrous oxide graph. Those, according to the report, show a similar upward sweep. The CFC graph at the bottom alone displays a slow decline in atmospheric concentrations because the world came together more than 25 years ago to address the hole in the ozone layer CFCs were creating, and agreed on the Montreal Protocol. This limited CFCs’ use in aerosols and other products. They were largely replaced, however, by HFCs, which are also extremely potent greenhouse gases.

The CFC graph shows what a successful emissions reduction regime might look like for the other greenhouse gases.

Source: This Is How The World’s Climate Changed Last Year

This Is How The World’s Climate Changed Last Year