Can We, Are We Pulling in the Excess CO₂ ?

In this post:
Mr. Jon Gertner’s article in the New York Times,
Rotterdam/The Hague Airport initiates study & pilot to produce renewable jet fuel from air with Climeworks,
Climeworks’s DAC machines up and running,
Carbon Engineering;
Direct Air Capture (DAC) to brew synthetic fuels

climeworks' DAC

There is a great article by Jon Gertner from the 12 February New York Times, that really updates the story about where we are – trying to pull in the excess CO₂ in our atmosphere from a technical point of view.

Any one who is commercially or technically involved with this industry or any aspect of Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) capture, brewing synthetic fuels and other uses, should read the article from beginning to end.

I have pulled a few items from the article and highlighted the two companies that are breaking the ground in this area. But if you have the time, go to the New York Times and read the whole article.

By Jon Gertner 12 February, 2019 The New York Times

Two European entrepreneurs want to remove carbon from the air at prices cheap enough to matter. Christoph Gebald, left, and Jan Wurzbacher, the founders of Climeworks, at their plant in Hinwil, Switzerland. Photo Credit: Luca Locatelli for The New York Times

It may now be that — carbon dioxide (CO₂) — can be removed from the air for commercial purposes, and that its removal could have a profound effect on the future of humanity. But it’s almost certainly too soon to say for sure.

The machines themselves require a significant amount of energy. They depend on electric fans to pull air into the ducts and over a special material, known as a sorbent, laced with granules that chemically bind with CO₂; periodic blasts of heat then release the captured gas from the sorbent, with customized software managing the whole catch-and-release cycle. Climeworks had installed the machines on the roof of the power plant to tap into the plant’s low-carbon electricity and the heat from its incineration system. A few dozen yards away from the new installation sat an older stack of Climeworks machines, 18 in total, that had been whirring on the same rooftop for more than a year. So far, these machines had captured about 1,000 metric tons (or about 1,100 short tons) of carbon dioxide from the air and fed it, by pipeline, to an enormous greenhouse nearby, where it was plumping up tomatoes, eggplants and mâche. During a tour of the greenhouse, Paul Ruser, the manager, suggested I taste the results. “Here, try one,” he said, handing me a crisp, ripe cucumber he plucked from a nearby vine. It was the finest direct-air-capture cucumber I’d ever had.

CO₂ to greenhouses
The greenhouse in Hinwil where Climeworks uses carbon dioxide pulled from the air to grow fruits and vegetables. Photo Credit: Luca Locatelli for The New York Times

economically feasible?

Climeworks’s rooftop plant represents something new in the world: the first direct-air-capture venture in history seeking to sell CO₂ by the ton. When the company’s founders, Christoph Gebald and Jan Wurzbacher, began openly discussing their plans to build a business several years ago, they faced a deluge of skepticism. “I would say nine out of 10 people reacted critically,” Gebald told me. “The first thing they said was: ‘This will never work technically.’ And finally in 2017 we convinced them it works technically, since we built the big plant in Hinwil. But once we convinced them that it works technically, they would say, ‘Well, it will never work economically.’ ”

And as it happens, the Climeworks machines on the rooftop do the work each year of about 36,000 trees.

Rotterdam The Hague Airport initiates study for the production of renewable jet fuel from air

Rotterdam airport CO₂ project

Friday 24 May, 2019 – Rotterdam The Hague Airport and a European consortium led by EDL Anlagenbau Gesellschaft mbH will sign a cooperation agreement. The agreement is for a study, to develop a demonstration plant that produces renewable jet fuel from air.


The path towards production of renewable jet fuel from airOn Location!

Following the study, a demonstration plant is to be realized . It will be commissioned on the premises of the airport, producing about 1’000 liters of renewable jet fuel per day. This would be the first time ever that renewable jet fuel from air production would exceed laboratory scale of a few liters per day. A series of highly innovative, but proven technologies are linked to each other to achieve this. The First, CO₂ is captured from ambient air by Climeworks’ direct air capture technology.


Climeworks launches DAC-3 plant in Italy

DAC to energy storage
Climeworks Direct Air Capture machines (DAC-3) in Troia, Apulia (Italy).

1 October, 2018 What do energy storage and direct air capture have in common? They are both essential to reach a carbon neutral economy and to limit global warming to safe levels. They can work hand in hand.
Climeworks is proud to announce that we have launched one of our second-generation Direct Air Capture plants (DAC-3) in Troia, Apulia (Italy). Installed in July and now in operation, this plant is part of the Horizon 2020 research project STORE&GO.



and so the story goes on……………………..

Stephen Pacala, a Princeton professor who led the authors of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, equates the challenges confronting Climeworks and Carbon Engineering to what the wind- and solar-power industries faced in the 1970s and ’80s, when their products were expensive compared with fossil fuels. … “Wind and solar are now the cheapest forms of energy in the right locations,” Pacala says. “The return on those investments, if you calculated it, would blow the doors off anything in your portfolio. It’s like investing in early Apple. So it’s a spectacular story of success. And direct air capture is precisely the same kind of problem, in which the only barrier is that it’s too costly.”

the business of synthetic fuels

And almost from the start, Gebald and Wurzbacher found themselves in a friendly competition with David Keith, the Harvard engineering professor who had just started Carbon Engineering in British Columbia. Keith’s company settled on a different air-capture technology — employing a higher-heat process, and a liquid solution to capture CO₂ — to brew synthetic fuels. Climeworks’s big advantage is that it can make smaller plants early, Keith told me: “I am crazy jealous. It’s because they’re using a modular design, and we’re not.” On the other hand, Keith said he believes his firm is closer to building a big plant that could capture carbon at a more reasonable cost and produce substantial amounts of fuel. “I don’t see a path for them to match this.” Gebald told me he thinks his and Keith’s companies will each succeed with differing approaches. For now, what all the founders have in common is a belief that the cost of capturing a ton of carbon will soon drop sharply.

Paradoxical though it may seem, it’s probable that synthetic fuels offer a more practical path to creating a viable business for direct air capture. The vast and constant market demand for fuel is why Carbon Engineering has staked its future on synthetics. The world currently burns about 100 million barrels of oil a day. David Keith told me he thinks that by 2050 the demand for transportation fuels will almost certainly be modified by the transition to electric vehicles. “So let’s say you’d have to supply something like 50 million barrels a day in 2050 of fuels,” he said. “That’s still a monster market.”

Steve Oldham, Carbon Engineering’s chief executive, added that direct-air-capture synthetics have an advantage over traditional fossil fuels: They won’t have to spend a dime on exploration. “If you were a brand-new company looking to make fuel, the cost of finding and then extracting fossil fuel is going to be really substantial,” he says. “Whereas our plants, you can build it right in the middle of California, wherever you have air and water.” He told me that the company’s first large-scale facility should be up and running by 2022, and will turn out at least 500 barrels a day of fuel feedstock — the raw material sent to refineries.

CO2 capture

March 2019 – Carbon Engineering Announces Investments. They are from Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures to Advance Innovative Low-Carbon Technology

DAC facility
We can build individual DAC plants in any country or climate. They could capture one million tons of CO₂ per year.

These investments highlight the first significant collaboration between the air capture field and two energy industry leaders

Squamish, B.C. –
Carbon Engineering Ltd. (CE), a Canadian clean energy company, has received equity investment from two global energy companies. They are Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, LLC (OLCV), a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Corporation; and Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV), the venture capital arm of Chevron Corporation.

04 Mar2019BHP invests US$6m in CO₂ emissions reduction company, Carbon Engineering

CO₂ synthetic fuel pelets
CE uses a “pellet reactor” to convert the extracted carbonate solution into small pellets of calcium carbonate. Once dried, it is processed into fuel.

This investment in Shares of Carbon Engineering highlights a significant interest in DAC CO₂ capture from the air, by a major player in the capture of Earth’s raw materials.

BHP today announced a US$6m equity investment in Carbon Engineering Ltd (CE), a Canadian-based company leading the development of Direct Air Capture to brew synthetic fuels. This is an innovative technology. It would have the potential to deliver large-scale negative emissions by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and replacing fossil fuel. The investment will see BHP obtain a share of the company.

In short, the best way to start making progress toward a decarbonized world is not to rev up millions of air capture machines right now. It’s to stop putting CO₂ in the atmosphere in the first place.

But the technology is with us….. It is a matter of time, not knowhow.
Business People! – it is time to start buying these machines!

2:01 min This animation shows a full one year time lapse animation of CO2 surface concentration from Jan 1, 2016 until Jan 1, 2017. The data comes from NASA’s GEOS-5 numerical weather model (https://gmao.gsfc.nasa.gov/GEOS/). Light colors represent higher amounts of CO2, whereas dark colors represent lower amounts. The Image comes from “earth”: https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/chem/surface/level/overlay=co2sc/orthographic

A few things to notice:
1. Look for the daily “heartbeat” caused by plants changing their CO2 absorption rates between daytime and nighttime.
2. As summer turns into fall, notice how concentrations increase in the northern hemisphere as trees lose their leaves.
3. Look for urban areas where the high population density results in easily visible plumes of CO2 emissions.
Do you want to see Today’s CO2 surface concentration?: (so much more) https://earth.nullschool.net/#current…
Use your arrow to move the globe around.

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