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.

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.

A still from the film "We Became Fragments" by Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller, part of the Global Oneness Project library.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
  • Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
  • Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Keep reading Show less

Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

Sartre and Wittgenstein realize they were mistaken. (Getty Images)
Culture & Religion

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

Keep reading Show less

Ashamed over my mental illness, I realized drawing might help me – and others – cope

Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.

Keep reading Show less

Sexual activity linked to higher cognitive function in older age

A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.

The results of this one-of-a-kind study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men.
Image by Lightspring on Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
  • The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
  • The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…