A Canadian plant might hold the future of carbon emissions and what we could do with them. The hope is that we could remove carbon from the air everyone is breathing right now in a process called 'direct air capture'. The company has been actively working on the process for four years now. The company leading the direct air capture process is a company named Carbon Engineering Ltd. The company has gotten backing from Bill Gates, oil billionaire Murray Edwards and other deep-pocketed investors. What they are working on would equate to snatching carbon emissions from cars, planes and other small-emitting devices and reclaiming the carbon so that it does not further poison the atmosphere. The idea is that once the carbon has been captured, it can be repurposed into carbon fuels.
"What we're doing is opening up, in a more serious way, a pathway to synthetic fuels from air. That's something that people get excited about," said David Keith, Carbon Engineering Ltd's founder. That was a quote from the Globe and Mail - in Canada - from January 2016. What strides has the company made in the last five months? Let's find out.
The company is a finalist in Virgin's Earth Challenge, where if they won, they would earn $25 million for the facility. The competition is dedicated to removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. This would assist the facility in further purchasing the tools they need to build their Prototype Air Contactor. The prototypes remove carbon emissions from vehicles that emit carbon into the air.
Christophe Jospe, a chief strategist for the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions (CNCE) writing for Virgin Earth's competition recapped the importance of Carbon Engineering Ltd's plight and highlighted its importance in our world today:
- Their process is feasible and makes economic sense
- Air capture (technologically removing CO2 from air) is a crucial technology to get to a carbon neutral future and beyond; and
- The world is starting to wake up to the fact that we cannot continue to treat the atmosphere as a dump for fossil based CO2, and there will be more policies and incentives to reflect that reality.
- Christophe Jospe, Virgin Earth
The company has continued its work in trying to repurpose the carbon into fuel so that they can power buses in the town they operate in, Squamish, British Columbia. Geoff Holmes, Carbon Engineer's business development manager said: "It would basically be a closed circle. You're capturing CO2 from the air, turning it into fuel, the car burns it, and it goes back into the air."
Will the world latch on to the idea or are there other ways we can eliminate carbon altogether that could be more profitable than direct air capture? The engineers are hard at work to try and make it happen. What will the next innovation in greenhouse gas reduction be? Check the video below for how the direct air capture facility from Carbon Engineering actually works.