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posted by mrpg on Wednesday June 13, @04:31AM   Printer-friendly
from the hot-on-the-heels-of-fresh-water-from-air dept.

Sucking carbon dioxide from air is cheaper than scientists thought

Siphoning carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere could be more than an expensive last-ditch strategy for averting climate catastrophe. A detailed economic analysis published on 7 June suggests that the geoengineering technology is inching closer to commercial viability.

The study, in Joule, was written by researchers at Carbon Engineering in Calgary, Canada, which has been operating a pilot CO2-extraction plant in British Columbia since 2015. That plant — based on a concept called direct air capture — provided the basis for the economic analysis, which includes cost estimates from commercial vendors of all of the major components. Depending on a variety of design options and economic assumptions, the cost of pulling a tonne of CO2 from the atmosphere ranges between US$94 and $232. The last comprehensive analysis of the technology, conducted by the American Physical Society in 2011, estimated that it would cost $600 per tonne.

Carbon Engineering says that it published the paper to advance discussions about the cost and potential of the technology. "We're really trying to commercialize direct air capture in a serious way, and to do that, you have to have everybody in the supply chain on board," says David Keith, acting chief scientist at Carbon Engineering and a climate physicist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A Process for Capturing CO2 from the Atmosphere (DOI: 10.1016/j.joule.2018.05.006) (DX)

Direct Air Capture of CO2 with Chemicals (2011)


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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Wednesday June 13, @04:58AM (20 children)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Wednesday June 13, @04:58AM (#692227)

    Also called a "tree". Just plant enough of them (or better, stop deforesting like there's no tomorrow) - problem solved.

    Of course, it's not something greedy capitalists can make much money out of though...

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by The Mighty Buzzard on Wednesday June 13, @05:09AM (17 children)

      Something like bamboo or kudzu would be better if space weren't a problem. They take up more area but they also suck up carbon a whole lot quicker because of their rapid growth.

      --
      "Buzzy, you're probably the dumbest person I've ever encountered. Well, there is aristarchus, so make it 2nd dumbest."
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, @05:28AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, @05:28AM (#692236)

        Kudzu, the borg of plants. Google for cooking recipes.

      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday June 13, @05:47AM (11 children)

        by c0lo (156) on Wednesday June 13, @05:47AM (#692242)

        Both of them require a fairly good amount of rain.

        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by tftp on Wednesday June 13, @05:55AM (10 children)

          by tftp (806) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 13, @05:55AM (#692243) Homepage
          Better rain than fuel to power those air factories. The comment above is correct: first they deforested lots of land gaining profit, and now going to undo the harm making profit as well.
          • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday June 13, @06:18AM (8 children)

            by c0lo (156) on Wednesday June 13, @06:18AM (#692248)

            Don't get me wrong, I agree with the idea of vegetation as a carbon sink. I only pointed that bamboo/kudzu aren't the appropriate one for many geo areas.

            Better rain than fuel to power those air factories.

            I wouldn't be so sure, it depends. If you have low rain fall [abc.net.au], it's not gonna work well with fast growers.
            Besides, if you have good rainfall, you may still want to grow something you can eat in the area.

            If we don’t have enough water, then we aren’t going to be able to grow plantations that will effectively absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere. And that could be a big problem. That’s what I consider to be the big yellow warning light, that says proceed with caution.

            • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Wednesday June 13, @03:26PM (7 children)

              Quite true but carbon sinks don't have to be geographically homogenous. It's no big deal to put most of them in places where water is abundant.

              --
              "Buzzy, you're probably the dumbest person I've ever encountered. Well, there is aristarchus, so make it 2nd dumbest."
              • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday June 13, @03:47PM (6 children)

                by c0lo (156) on Wednesday June 13, @03:47PM (#692377)

                It's no big deal to put most of them in places where water is abundant.

                In the rice paddies or in the (freshly established after slash and burn deforestation [theguardian.com]) coconut plantations, where do you think it will be a smaller deal?

                • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Wednesday June 13, @03:57PM

                  The best way to do things would be build man-made islands, cover them with $vegitation_of_choice, and ship/pipe in water from the continent's largest river (near the mouth so you're not depleting anything but the brackish area that's slightly downstream). Gets you your carbon sink and doesn't leave you having to worry about invasive vegetation species.

                  --
                  "Buzzy, you're probably the dumbest person I've ever encountered. Well, there is aristarchus, so make it 2nd dumbest."
                • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Wednesday June 13, @04:11PM (4 children)

                  Oh, wait, I get it now. You're wanting something of value without it costing anything. Not going to happen. You're either going to have to pay farmers to grow the vegetation on already cleared land, clear more land and pay new farmers, or go with the technological way where you also have to pay. You'll probably want it paid for by the government (read: tax payers) whichever you pick though, knowing you.

                  --
                  "Buzzy, you're probably the dumbest person I've ever encountered. Well, there is aristarchus, so make it 2nd dumbest."
                  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday June 13, @05:15PM (3 children)

                    by c0lo (156) on Wednesday June 13, @05:15PM (#692413)

                    You'll probably want it paid for by the government (read: tax payers) whichever you pick though, knowing you.

                    Wrong as usual, you know dinky-shit about me, mate

                    Oh, wait, I get it now. You're wanting something of value without it costing anything.

                    I want more that fishing-chair handwaving solutions, like the one about building artificial islands.

                    Something like: how about stopping deforestation? How about intensive (as opposed to extensive) agricultural practices - permaculture, crop rotation and the like? How about having each home build with high energy conservation rating/low energy footprint as opposed to profit maximization in mind?
                    How about returning to durable goods as opposed to planned-obsolescence practices? (up until 1 year ago I was still happily using a 7yo dumb-mobile, I only needed to switch to a smart one because of "two factor auth" for telecommuting).

                    How about searching for other solutions? Here [nature.com], for example

                    In February 2004, researchers involved in the European Iron Fertilization Experiment (EIFEX) fertilized 167 square kilometres of the Southern Ocean with several tonnes of iron sulphate. For 37 days, the team on board the German research vessel Polarstern monitored the bloom and demise of single-cell algae (phytoplankton) in the iron-limited but otherwise nutrient-rich ocean region.

                    Each atom of added iron pulled at least 13,000 atoms of carbon out of the atmosphere by encouraging algal growth which, through photosynthesis, captures carbon. In a paper in Nature today, the team reports that much of the captured carbon was transported to the deep ocean, where it will remain sequestered for centuries1 — a 'carbon sink'.

                    Are you attracted by handwaving solutions? Here's one, how about nuke-glassing an entire oil-field desert and covering it by photopanels with batteries underneath, then running power cables? Each sqm produces at peak about 200W (at current efficiencies); at 2.15 million sqkm of glassed Saudi Arabia covered in solar panel will produce in one (peak) hour 0.43 TWh of energy. At an equiv of 5 peak-hours/day for an entire year, this amounts for 784TWh of energy.
                    For comparison, the entire world electric energy generated from all sources in 2013 was 19,504 TWh [wikipedia.org]. Well, waddaya know? About the 40% of all electric energy for only the price of nuking a desert - yes, we need to nuke it first (use clean A-bombs) as an engineering solution for fixing that sand down and keeping the solar panels clean.
                    I wonder what's not to like in this handwaving solution? (grin)

                    • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Thursday June 14, @05:03AM (2 children)

                      Are you sure you really want solutions? Deforestation would solve the problem better than anything. Trees are by far not the most efficient plants at sequestering carbon.

                      --
                      "Buzzy, you're probably the dumbest person I've ever encountered. Well, there is aristarchus, so make it 2nd dumbest."
                      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Thursday June 14, @05:37AM (1 child)

                        by c0lo (156) on Thursday June 14, @05:37AM (#692727)

                        Trees are by far not the most efficient plants at sequestering carbon.

                        Seems to me I detect a whiff of "Nirvana fallacy" here.
                        Tell you what: how about, as a proof of goodwill, one shows me the planting of a new improved efficiency species of carbon-sink vegetation on an already deforested significant area before deforesting others.

                        Maybe it's my age, but I tend to distrust solutions which promise a Nirvana replacement only after I renounced/demolished all the other good things. See?... no warranties that the Nirvana will be actually delivered, why should I take the deal?

                        Are you sure you really want solutions?

                        I'm quite sure I do not want handwaving solutions.

                        • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Saturday June 16, @05:10AM

                          You're spinning your own Nirvana if you think cleared land is going to be used for altruistic carbon capture rather than profitable farming. You will in fact find not nearly enough people to work one small bamboo farm for free, even if the valuable land were donated. See, farming is hard fucking work and tree huggers made their parents pay who knows how many thousands of dollars for the express purpose of them not ever having to work hard.

                          --
                          "Buzzy, you're probably the dumbest person I've ever encountered. Well, there is aristarchus, so make it 2nd dumbest."
          • (Score: 1) by west on Wednesday June 13, @02:16PM

            by west (6884) on Wednesday June 13, @02:16PM (#692334)

            There are more trees now than there were in the 1700s to 1900s

      • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Wednesday June 13, @12:46PM (1 child)

        by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 13, @12:46PM (#692317) Journal

        You beat me to it. If people plant the right varieties of bamboo, it can be a food source too. Wonderful stuff, bamboo. You can make almost anything from it. My wife even knits with yarn made from it.

        --
        Washington DC delenda est.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, @05:47PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, @05:47PM (#692427)

        if space weren't a problem

        Or water.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by DeathMonkey on Wednesday June 13, @06:58PM (1 child)

      by DeathMonkey (1380) on Wednesday June 13, @06:58PM (#692473) Journal

      Also called a "tree". Just plant enough of them (or better, stop deforesting like there's no tomorrow) - problem solved.

      For every problem there is a solution that is simple, elegant, and wrong.

      It would take 467 billion [greenismything.com] trees to offset the C02 emissions of just the US.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, @10:20AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, @10:20AM (#692804)

        From your link the US generates 5.5 billion tons per year so this method will cost at least 500 billion dollars a year (assuming simplistically that nothing else is absorbing the CO2 - e.g. ignoring existing trees, vegetation, algae etc).

        You can make money by growing trees/bamboo and then using them for materials. What's the revenue stream for this device?

        So this method seems significantly inferior to trees even if trees can't solve the whole problem by themselves (as the OP seems to believe) or even much of it.

  • (Score: 3, Disagree) by jmorris on Wednesday June 13, @06:05AM (11 children)

    by jmorris (4844) <{jmorris} {at} {beau.org}> on Wednesday June 13, @06:05AM (#692244)

    Won't matter if the cost is $1/ton. What do you do with it once you have it? Unless you can find a market for the stuff that doesn't involve it being rereleased you are left stacking it up in some unsalable form. And if you CAN find a market, that will drive the supply. As others already have noted, plants consume carbon and store it in stable, useful forms. Even raising fast growing stuff, compressing it into blocks and dropping the blocks into the ocean is probably more efficient than any sort of direct extraction. And is anyone actually doing an all in carbon cost of building, operating and eventually decommissioning these plants? An industrial plant consumes energy, most of which still comes from burning stuff. Using "green energy" is simply an accounting trick that displaces someone else's use to carbon based energy. And using waste heat is also bullcrap, better to use the excess heat for co-generation and avoid the need to generate more electricity by burning fossil fuels.

    Bottom line, a non-solution searching for a government subsidy and lots of ego-boo.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, @06:11AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, @06:11AM (#692247)

      The problem is one of scale and time. If we covered the entire fertile ground with forest, we still couldn't offset the carbon excess before the temperature rise became a problem. Also, while biosequestration is a great idea, it's too slow - on the order of decades. We need much more prompt, effective action to preserve our existing coastlines and biosphere. Thus, something which can be scaled as an industrial process might offer a better, faster solution.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, @06:46AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, @06:46AM (#692250)

        We should do both: short term solution and long term solution. Not to mention trees provide habitat for animals and prevent soil erosion (just ask Iceland [skogur.is]) and they can be planted even in remote areas and not require any maintenance.

        Also, if we did more at the pollution sources that would be a lot more effective and cheaper, wouldn't it?

    • (Score: 2, Touché) by anubi on Wednesday June 13, @07:25AM (6 children)

      by anubi (2828) on Wednesday June 13, @07:25AM (#692254) Journal

      Won't matter if the cost is $1/ton.

      Wouldn't it have been a helluva lot easier to have not burned that ton of coal in the first place?

      oh yeah... economics... who pays and who gets paid thing, eh?

      --
      "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
      • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Wednesday June 13, @11:07AM (5 children)

        Economics aren't something you get to say with derision unless you're willing to assume the living costs of everyone whose livelihood depends on what you're currently against. They're both far more serious to those affected and far more immediate than any climate change worries.

        --
        "Buzzy, you're probably the dumbest person I've ever encountered. Well, there is aristarchus, so make it 2nd dumbest."
        • (Score: 1) by anubi on Wednesday June 13, @11:17AM (4 children)

          by anubi (2828) on Wednesday June 13, @11:17AM (#692298) Journal

          The economics of broken windows.

          --
          "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
          • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Wednesday June 13, @03:40PM (3 children)

            I find it very interesting that the regressive left are so concerned about poor people but have no problem whatsoever with forcing people into poverty in the first place.

            --
            "Buzzy, you're probably the dumbest person I've ever encountered. Well, there is aristarchus, so make it 2nd dumbest."
            • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Wednesday June 13, @04:21PM (2 children)

              by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday June 13, @04:21PM (#692390) Homepage

              I find it very interesting that die-hard free market supporters insist on letting their theory go completely awry by not factoring in all the costs of producing a good to be included in the price. They do this largely by pretending that the costs not included in the price don't exist.

              Also, forcing people to pay the costs of producing whatever they're selling shouldn't reduce anybody to poverty, unless you're telling me that the entire energy industry functions solely as a scam.

              --
              A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of bad gravy.
    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday June 13, @07:51AM (1 child)

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 13, @07:51AM (#692261) Journal

      Even raising fast growing stuff, compressing it into blocks and dropping the blocks into the ocean is probably more efficient than any sort of direct extraction

      So depleat your soil for 20 years, cut it down, waste a bunch of energy to compress it then haul it to the sea, and toss it in the ocean and call it a day?

      All for $94 dollars a ton? I don't think you've done the math. I know you've not done the science.

      Or use solar energy to remove CO2 from air? More solar power to break it down to carbon, and oxygen. Let the oxygen float away, or use it industrially. Bury the carbon.

      What's the point of any effort at all if you think Green Energy is all just an accounting trick?

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 1) by anubi on Wednesday June 13, @11:20AM

        by anubi (2828) on Wednesday June 13, @11:20AM (#692299) Journal

        This is the kind of suit-talk that drives engineers out of their mind.

        --
        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
  • (Score: 1) by DeVilla on Wednesday June 13, @06:11AM (3 children)

    by DeVilla (5354) on Wednesday June 13, @06:11AM (#692246)

    "Closer to Commercial Viability" What's the commercial angle?

    From an environmental angle this is cool. Pull carbon from the air on the cheap. Then stash it somewhere. Maybe dump pellets down the Kola Superdeep Borehole.

    Is the commercial angle to pull from the air and burn it again? I guess if it's cheaper then coal, oil, etc then great. But it seems to miss it's potential if that's all we do with it.

    • (Score: 2) by MostCynical on Wednesday June 13, @07:57AM

      by MostCynical (2589) on Wednesday June 13, @07:57AM (#692262)

      I think it means viability, when compared to other carbon offset schemes.

      --
      tau = 300. Greek circles must have been weird.
    • (Score: 2) by inertnet on Wednesday June 13, @12:10PM

      by inertnet (4071) on Wednesday June 13, @12:10PM (#692306)

      Indeed, to the people who came up with the idea that it could be commercially interesting: I have a bridge for sale.

      Those who are going to pay for this will be taxpayers. As long as you can blow smoke in their eyes, the middlemen could make it commercially viable though.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Scottingham on Wednesday June 13, @02:51PM

      by Scottingham (5593) on Wednesday June 13, @02:51PM (#692350)

      A pure source of C02 could be used for many commercial processes.

      An example of tech available now is supercritical C02 extraction. Plenty of processes benefit from that cleaner form of solvent. Even some dry-cleaners are using it now as an environmentally alternative.

      A bit farther out you could see this as a source of organic chemistry feedstock. Instead of a petrochemical source, this pure C02 plus some energy/catalysts could yield many valuable resources. The precursors to plastics and epoxy resins or liquid fuels for instance.

      There is a process I read an article about recently that used lithium carbonite cells with a C02 feedstock to produce carbon nano-tube wool that could be spun into strong carbon fibers. The process is still in its infancy, but the potential is huge.

      What if carbon sequestration also equated to cheap building materials (carbon fiber / epoxy resins)??

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