Canadian company to build plant that will remove CO2 from atmosphere — convert it to fuel

The Bill Gates-backed venture promises to remove CO2 from the atmosphere at a rate of under $100 per tonne.

Canadian company to build plant that will remove CO2 from atmosphere — convert it to fuel
Carbon Engineering
  • Negative emissions technologies remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it or convert it to fuel.
  • In addition to capturing carbon, Carbon Engineering also converts stored carbon into a fuel that can be used by everyday vehicles.
  • The ability to profit from carbon capture and conversion will surely help make these kinds of technologies more cost-effective.

To hit the international goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius this century, reducing emissions and using renewable energies probably won't be enough. That's why people are becoming increasingly interested in negative emissions technologies, which suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it underground or convert it into carbon-neutral fuel. These processes have been too costly to implement on a large scale, however.

But that might change soon: Carbon Engineering Ltd, a Canada-based company that's been running a pilot carbon-capture program since 2015, just raised enough money to build its first commercial-scale negative-emissions facility. The company says its systems can now remove CO2 from the atmosphere at a rate of under $100 per tonne — what's long been considered the benchmark for negative-emissions technology to be cost-effective.

"A financial investor invests because they like your business plan. We were able to bring some pretty big Silicon Valley venture capital to us," said Carbon Engineering president and CEO Steve Oldham, whose company is backed by the likes of billionaire Bill Gates.

Carbon Engineering says one of its commercial plants would occupy 30 acres of land and be able to pull one megaton of CO2 from the atmosphere per year. Oldham said that's equivalent to planting about 40 million trees.

The company is also able to convert captured carbon into fuel through a process it calls "air to fuels," which involves combining captured CO2 with hydrogen from water. This process requires a lot of electricity, but Carbon Engineering uses renewable hydro power, meaning the resulting fuel ends up being carbon-neutral when burned.

What's most interesting about the fuel is that the company says it can be used by existing cars, trucks and planes without requiring any modifications to the vehicles.

In the near future, Carbon Engineering plans to build one or two plants in order to see how the designs work out. The idea is to scale "aggressively but not recklessly," Oldham said.

"Our technology is ready to go to market, [but] we don't want to end up in a situation where we miss something and we have to fix it in five or six different plants at once."

The ability to profit from carbon capture and conversion would surely help make these processes more cost-effective, and also help increase the amounts of carbon we pull from the atmosphere: Currently, we remove only 1 percent of total carbon emissions.

U.S. Navy controls inventions that claim to change "fabric of reality"

Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.

U.S. Navy ships

Credit: Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
  • Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
  • While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
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CRISPR therapy cures first genetic disorder inside the body

It marks a breakthrough in using gene editing to treat diseases.

Credit: National Cancer Institute via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published by our sister site, Freethink.

For the first time, researchers appear to have effectively treated a genetic disorder by directly injecting a CRISPR therapy into patients' bloodstreams — overcoming one of the biggest hurdles to curing diseases with the gene editing technology.

The therapy appears to be astonishingly effective, editing nearly every cell in the liver to stop a disease-causing mutation.

The challenge: CRISPR gives us the ability to correct genetic mutations, and given that such mutations are responsible for more than 6,000 human diseases, the tech has the potential to dramatically improve human health.

One way to use CRISPR to treat diseases is to remove affected cells from a patient, edit out the mutation in the lab, and place the cells back in the body to replicate — that's how one team functionally cured people with the blood disorder sickle cell anemia, editing and then infusing bone marrow cells.

Bone marrow is a special case, though, and many mutations cause disease in organs that are harder to fix.

Another option is to insert the CRISPR system itself into the body so that it can make edits directly in the affected organs (that's only been attempted once, in an ongoing study in which people had a CRISPR therapy injected into their eyes to treat a rare vision disorder).

Injecting a CRISPR therapy right into the bloodstream has been a problem, though, because the therapy has to find the right cells to edit. An inherited mutation will be in the DNA of every cell of your body, but if it only causes disease in the liver, you don't want your therapy being used up in the pancreas or kidneys.

A new CRISPR therapy: Now, researchers from Intellia Therapeutics and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have demonstrated for the first time that a CRISPR therapy delivered into the bloodstream can travel to desired tissues to make edits.

We can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically.

—JENNIFER DOUDNA

"This is a major milestone for patients," Jennifer Doudna, co-developer of CRISPR, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR.

"While these are early data, they show us that we can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically so far, which is being able to deliver it systemically and get it to the right place," she continued.

What they did: During a phase 1 clinical trial, Intellia researchers injected a CRISPR therapy dubbed NTLA-2001 into the bloodstreams of six people with a rare, potentially fatal genetic disorder called transthyretin amyloidosis.

The livers of people with transthyretin amyloidosis produce a destructive protein, and the CRISPR therapy was designed to target the gene that makes the protein and halt its production. After just one injection of NTLA-2001, the three patients given a higher dose saw their levels of the protein drop by 80% to 96%.

A better option: The CRISPR therapy produced only mild adverse effects and did lower the protein levels, but we don't know yet if the effect will be permanent. It'll also be a few months before we know if the therapy can alleviate the symptoms of transthyretin amyloidosis.

This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine.

—FYODOR URNOV

If everything goes as hoped, though, NTLA-2001 could one day offer a better treatment option for transthyretin amyloidosis than a currently approved medication, patisiran, which only reduces toxic protein levels by 81% and must be injected regularly.

Looking ahead: Even more exciting than NTLA-2001's potential impact on transthyretin amyloidosis, though, is the knowledge that we may be able to use CRISPR injections to treat other genetic disorders that are difficult to target directly, such as heart or brain diseases.

"This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine," Fyodor Urnov, a UC Berkeley professor of genetics, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR. "We as a species are watching this remarkable new show called: our gene-edited future."

UFOs: US intelligence report finds no aliens but plenty of unidentified flying objects

A new government report describes 144 sightings of unidentified aerial phenomena.

Photo by Albert Antony on Unsplash
Surprising Science

On June 25, 2021, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a much-anticipated report on UFOs to Congress.

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