A Hoover for Atmospheric CO2
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) Why not reduce atmospheric CO2 by capturing it? Why pay $500-$1000 per ton to reduce CO2 via electric cars, if you could pay 80% less via a direct capture of greenhouse gases.
Can it succeed? How, when, and how much? The Digest investigates.
In western Canada a technology is under development that its developers say can reduce the cost of recovering CO2 directly from the atmosphere to $150-$200 per ton in the 2010s, and ultimately they believe to $100 per ton.
Let’s put that in perspective. It costs a consumer $919 to avoid one ton of carbon (compared to using baseline 2005 gasoline) by investing in a Prius running typical E10 fuel blends, and running it for 100,000 miles. Or, $470 per ton, by making the investment in an all electric (in this case, the Nissan Leaf). You can see the math on all that, in “How Do I Save $$ and Save on CO2”, here.
So, when a technology comes along that can pull already-emitted CO2 from the atmosphere at substantially lower figures, it evokes attention.
That’s the story of Carbon Engineering, based in Calgary.
“Through what we call a pellet reactor, we have carbonate and calcium ions meet, and we precipitate out calcium carbonate, which comes in the form of little beads, like pearls, and we sluice out the beads which embody the CO2.
“Once we have drained the liquid, we introduce them into a fluidized bed where our jostling bed of beads combusts with natural gas that we introduce at this stage, and with oxygen. When they combust, they naturally decompose into calcium oxide and CO2, and when we mix in a combustion chamber with combustion CO2, we get water vapor and CO2 and the calcium oxide goes back to the pellet reactor, meets the potassium carbonate and does that ion swap. So we close the loop and recover the potassium and the calcium – otherwise we would have to buy and dispose of huge quantities of both.”
The first generation of full-scale plants would cost some fraction of $1 billion each (CE won’t say precisely how much for now), capture 1 million tons of carbon per year, and after applying a discounted cash flow over 25 years of straight depreciation you come to a cost somewhere between $150-200 per ton for atmospheric carbon capture, including capex, opex, and the cost of capital. CE declined to give a full cost break-down for this article but noted that they are considering publishing a full cost assessment in the open literature late this year or early next.
The next generation? “Our target is $100 per ton,” says Holmes, “and to reach that figure we need positive outcomes on the engineering we have underway, but it doesn’t require any change in externalities such as the cost of steel dropping in half or something like that. It’s not a case of next year, or the first plant, but that’s the target for the Nth plant and it is based on incremental improvement of our system.”
“The business plan rests on using CO2 for enhanced oil recovery or liquid fuels and chemicals that use CO2, especially for low-carbon markets like California.” READ MORE