The Earth is witnessing an increasing threat because of global warming, according to a United Nations report. A Bill Gates-backed company, Carbon Engineering, is working on a new way to reduce carbon dioxide level by extracting it straight from the atmosphere and converting the by-product into fuel.
The first functioning facility took almost a decade to build in western Canada. It could collect carbon dioxide at less than $100 per ton, according to Carbon Engineering. The company calls its method direct air capture or DAC, arguing it would be more efficient than planting trees. The company said its model could include utilizing arid location such as the Nevada desert in the global efforts in reducing CO2 level.
The DAC system then uses a chemical process to separate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
It uses large fans powered locally with renewable energy such as solar and wind power plants to suck the air in the tunnel. In the structure, the air would come in contact with alkaline liquid drips. Since CO2 is a weak acid, it will want to be in the strong base.
The liquid contains CO2 will be frozen and slowly heated up to release pure carbon dioxide, which could be stored underground or used to create synthetic fuels. The company said it plans to use clean energy to power the entire process.
Carbon Engineering is also backed by oil companies such as Chevron, BHP, and Occidental, which create some controversies around the project. Some argue this creates more incentive for oil companies to sell cheaper synthetic fuels, which will emit the CO2 back into the atmosphere.
The company said in order to expand the project, it has no choice but to make a commercially viable production. Carbon Engineering received $68 million funding in the latest round, and the government of Canada is adding CAN$25million to the project. Its facility in Canada is said to have the capacity to capture the same amount of CO2 as 40 million trees.
Experts said this is not the end game in battling a warming planet. The best way to slow the process down is still avoiding emitting CO2.