Carbon engineering, the brainchild of founder, Harvard Professor David Keith, has begun testing a concept of washing carbon dioxide from thin air and converting it for use in fuels. The $9-million pilot plant in the coastal town of Squamish British Colombia, should be able to strip around one ton a day. Not nearly enough to put a dent in in greenhouse emissions, but thus far it’s only a pilot and the concept is up scalable to a plant similar to the one depicted.
Canadian Engineers Carbon Engineering (Source: Carbon Engineering)The process uses an existing technology called wet-scrubbing, where large fans push air through a special liquid that traps CO2. This is then recycled as the CO2 is separated into pellet form. The CO2 pellets can be heated and combined with hydrogen to create hydrocarbon synthetic fuels.Sounds simple enough right? Well the provincial government of British Colombia, Bill Gates and Murray Edwards part- owner of The Calgary Flames all think so, and have put their money where their mouth is, backing the venture.Canadian Engineers Carbon Engineering (Source: CarbonEngineering’s Channel)The company CEO Adrian Corless has ambitious plans to have the carbon extraction and conversion to fuels, up and running by the end of the decade. He sees this as an exciting opportunity to monetize greenhouse gas reduction through the supply of fuels for aircraft and long haul transportation.However, the cynics and naysayers say that the cost will far outweigh the benefits and will just prolong our dependence on hydrocarbon fuels.Canadian Engineers Carbon Engineering (Source: CarbonEngineering’s Channel)The business case is yet to be established. Will the fuel produced be a cost effective alternative to fossil fuels? Will these huge walls of fans prove more effective than the traditional green house gas catcher, the humble tree? If in fact we are at the precipice of climate Armageddon will this technology be enough? Or will we just have to adapt our technology away from hydrocarbon-based fuels?Given the $30 trillion infrastructure in current fuel technology, carbon engineering is at least attempting to save us from financial Armageddon, so let us hope they succeed.