Photo by NASA

Atmospheric carbon dioxide has hit 410 parts per million, but a Canadian company founded by a Harvard University physicist says it has developed the technology to start cost-effectively pulling it from the sky.

Published in journal Joule, the research found that carbon dioxide could be captured from the atmosphere for as little as US$94 (AU$124) a tonne, and up to US$232 (AU$307) a tonne, using Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology.

“Until now, research suggested it would cost US$600 per tonne [AU$794] to remove CO2 from the atmosphere using DAC technology, making it too expensive to be a feasible solution to removing legacy carbon at scale,” Harvard professorand Carbon Engineering founder David Keith said.

Carbon Engineering has been working on DAC since 2009 and running a pilot plant since 2015.

“We now have the data and engineering to prove that DAC can achieve costs below US$100 per tonne. No prior research in the peer-reviewed literature provides a design and engineering cost for a complete DAC system – and this paper fills that gap.”

The company also has another technology – Air to Fuels – that uses the CO2 and hydrogen from water electrolysis to create liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

“Our clean fuel is fully compatible with existing engines, so it provides the transportation sector with a solution for significantly reducing emissions, either through blending or direct use. Our technology is scalable, flexible and demonstrated,” Carbon Engineering chief executive Steve Oldham said.

However, the company is aware that such technologies could play into the hands of those who would like to continue business as usual in terms of our energy and transport systems.

Mr Oldham said the company’s vision was to reduce the effects of climate change “by first cutting emissions, then by reducing atmospheric CO2”.

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  1. I think that the point is that it is a means of storing electrical energy. The CO2 is taken from the sky and then returns after combustion.

    The hydrogen is obtained by putting energy into water which is stored in the released hydrogen. But hydrogen is a difficult /dangerous gas to store, so combing it with the CO2 prduces a transportable product. The original energy from the electrolysis is then released at a different place/time and the CO2 returns to the atmosphere.