Giant Sucking Sound: process claims to be able to suck fuel “straight out of the sky”

How to suck carbon dioxide from the sky for fuels and more

Someday, the gasoline you buy might trace its heritage to carbon dioxide pulled straight out of the sky rather than from oil pumped out of the ground. By removing emitted carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into fresh fuels, engineers at a Canadian firm have demonstrated a scalable and cost-effective way to make deep cuts in the carbon footprint of transportation with minimal disruption to existing vehicles. Their work appears June 7 in the journal Joule.

“The carbon dioxide generated via direct air capture can be combined with sequestration for carbon removal, or it can enable the production of carbon-neutral hydrocarbons, which is a way to take low-cost carbon-free power sources like solar or wind and channel them into fuels that can be used to decarbonize the transportation sector,” says lead author David Keith, founder and chief scientist of Carbon Engineering, a Canadian CO2-capture and clean fuels enterprise, and a professor of applied physics and public policy at Harvard University.

Direct air capture technology works almost exactly like it sounds. Giant fans draw ambient air into contact with an aqueous solution that picks out and traps carbon dioxide. Through heating and a handful of familiar chemical reactions, that same carbon dioxide is re-extracted and ready for further use–as a carbon source for making valuable chemicals like fuels, or for storage via a sequestration strategy of choice. It’s not just theory–Carbon Engineering’s facility in British Columbia is already achieving both CO2 capture and fuel generation.

This image shows Carbon Engineering’s pilot air contactor, constructed from the same set of cooling tower componentry and design philosophy that will be used at commercial scale. CREDIT Carbon Engineering

The idea of direct air capture is hardly new, but the successful implementation of a scalable and cost-effective working pilot plant is. After conducting a full process analysis and crunching the numbers, Keith and his colleagues claim that realizing direct air capture on an impactful scale will cost roughly $94-$232 per ton of carbon dioxide captured, which is on the low end of estimates that have ranged up to $1,000 per ton in theoretical analyses.

That price-point is low enough to use direct air capture to start tackling the roughly 20% of global carbon emissions that result from driving, flying, trucking, and other ways of getting people and goods around. “Electricity from solar and wind is intermittent; we can take this energy straight from big solar or wind installations at great sites where it’s cheap and apply it to reclaim and recycle carbon dioxide into new fuel,” Keith says, adding that “Making fuels that are easy to store and transport eases the challenge of integrating renewables into the energy system.”

Artist rendering of the machine to remove carbon from the air for conversion to fuel.

The resulting fuels, including gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, are compatible with existing fuel distribution and transportation infrastructure. Thanks to ultra-low life cycle carbon intensities, they are a promising route for reducing carbon emissions in heavy transportation and other sectors of the energy system that are demanding and difficult to electrify.

Centuries of unchecked human carbon emissions also mean that atmospheric carbon dioxide is a virtually unlimited feedstock for transformation into new fuels.

“We are not going to run out of air anytime soon,” adds Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering. “We can keep collecting carbon dioxide with direct air capture, keep adding hydrogen generation and fuel synthesis, and keep reducing emissions through this AIR TO FUELSTM pathway.”

Keith and Oldham are optimistic that they have reduced scale-up risks by implementing direct air capture at reasonable costs using standard industrial equipment. That means that all the pieces are in place to move on to full-size plants capable of manufacturing 2,000 barrels of fuels per day– totaling over 30 million gallons per year across plants.

This image shows Carbon Engineering’s clean fuel, synthesized from carbon dioxide captured from the air and hydrogen split from water. CREDIT Carbon Engineering

Commercialization of such plants would allow direct air capture to make a dent in transportation emissions by connecting low-cost renewable energy to low-carbon transportation fuels using Carbon Engineering’s AIR TO FUELSTM pathway.

“After 100 person-years of practical engineering and cost analysis, we can confidently say that while air capture is not some magical cheap solution, it is a viable and buildable technology for producing carbon-neutral fuels in the immediate future and for removing carbon in the long run,” says Keith.

###

In addition to funds raised by Carbon Engineering, this work was supported by the British Columbia Innovative Clean Energy Fund, Sustainable Development Technologies Canada, the Industrial Research Assistanceship Program, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The paper:

Joule, Keith et al.: “A process for capturing CO2 from the atmosphere” https://www.cell.com/joule/fulltext/S2542-4351(18)30225-3

 

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143 thoughts on “Giant Sucking Sound: process claims to be able to suck fuel “straight out of the sky”

  1. Okay, hook it directly to the national debt so it can be even more efficient as a perpetual motion machine.

    • The fuel produced will first have to power the engines which drive the generators that power the fans, pumps and compressors needed for the process. And breaking the O2 from the C is surely not a room temperature process? And if the end product is going to be a hydrocarbon, won’t we have to add hydrogen? Hydrogen could be got by electrolysis of H2O, but it’s usually gotten by “reforming” natural gas – it’s cheaper (more efficient), and the only byproduct is …. CO2.

      But after all that it’s all free energy, baby. If we just spend enough on research, propaganda and subsidies….

      The fact that “scientists” are pushing this is proof positive that “scientists” will lie for money – they couldn’t possibly be stupid enough to think this will produce more energy than it consumes.

  2. Keith and his colleagues claim that realizing direct air capture on an impactful scale will cost roughly $94-$232 per ton of carbon dioxide captured …

    Or it can be free if you capture CO2 in the form of tettuce and potatoes.

    • The cleanest fuel is natural gas (methane) which is produced naturally by decomposition in low O2 environments (land fills, sewage treatment plants, swamps, forest floors, hog farm lagoons. ) I’m sure it would be a lot cheaper to use this renewable resource than trying to produce fuel out of thin air (sort of like central banks printing fiat money). Also. the polar oceans are already sucking up CO2 on a scale several magnitudes greater than is possible by their method.

    • Or, you can compel everyone to wear a CPAP like carbon capture device while they sleep and create a multi-trillion dollar utility infrastructure to pipe all the exhaled CO2 to a processing plant. This sounds just as practical, right?

      • You’ll need a connection in your tail pipe as well to capture the generated methane. Not sure you’ll get many who’ll willingly install one of those.

        • No doubt, the California state legislature is already working on a law to make that mandatory.

  3. What could possibly go wrong. Once upon a time, citizens of planet earth were worried about Nuclear war destroying the planet. Have no fear, modern ‘scientists’ will outdo the nuclear menace by an order of magnitude.

    • The big sucking bird shredder is a laughable image. All to make a quart sized jar of fuel.
      It looks to me like they have invented a very expensive way of making Moonshine liquor.

      The market for these devices is innumerate consumers.

      • How much ya wanna bet that they have ignored construction and maintenance costs is their calculations?

      • ….small correction:
        The target market is innumerate policy makers and opinion leaders.

    • Not sure about item #1.. 10k ppm level kills pests on plants via asphyxiation. Not sure how long a human could survive. Going from memory, 10,000 ppm, per docs I have, is deadly to humans within about an hour of exposure.

      • Ever heard of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation? That is done with 40,000 ppm exhaled air. The high CO2 is actually considered beneficial since it stimulates the breathing reflex.

      • Yep ! 10,000ppm will kill white-fly. HUMANS NOT AFFECTED at this level.
        You breathe-out 4% to 5% CO2 ( 40,000ppm to 50,000ppm) without harm.
        xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
        “Submarine crew are reported to be the major source of CO2 on board submarines (Crawl 2003). Data collected on nine nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines indicate an average CO2 concentration of 3,500 ppm with a range of 0-10,600 ppm, and data collected on 10 nuclear-powered attack submarines indicate an average CO2 concentration of 4,100 ppm with a range of 300-11,300 ppm (Hagar 2003).”
        WUWT has an article on CO2
        “Claim: CO2 makes you stupid? Ask a submariner that question
        Anthony Watts / October 17, 2012”
        xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
        CO2 is lethal at 100,000 ppm for about 5 to 10 minutes exposure.
        That is 10% or about 250 TIMES as much as the present atmospheric concentration !!!
        H2S however is lethal at 1000 ppm………ONE BREATH will do it !
        Makes CO2 sound positively harmless !

      • Boy am I lucky.
        On my boat I experienced about 1000 hours of 20,000 PPM CO2 while conducting Polaris patrols in the ’60s. Don’t know how I escaped certain death.

      • Wikipedia:
        Inhaled air is by volume 78.08% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen and small amounts include argon, carbon dioxide, neon, helium, and hydrogen.[16]

        The gas exhaled is 4% to 5% by volume of carbon dioxide, about a 100 fold increase over the inhaled amount. The volume of oxygen is reduced by a small amount, 4% to 5%, compared to the oxygen inhaled. The typical composition is:[17]

        5.0–6.3% water vapor
        74.4% nitrogen
        13.6–16.0% oxygen
        4.0–5.3% carbon dioxide [40,000PPM – 53,000PPM]

        [17] P.S.Dhami; G.Chopra; H.N. Shrivastava (2015). A Textbook of Biology. Jalandhar, Punjab: Pradeep Publications. pp. V/101.

      • You are wrong. Perhaps you made a decimal point error?

        https://www.nap.edu/read/11170/chapter/5

        “Submarine crew are reported to be the major source of CO2 on board submarines (Crawl 2003). Data collected on nine nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines indicate an average CO2 concentration of 3,500 ppm with a range of 0-10,600 ppm, and data collected on 10 nuclear-powered attack submarines indicate an average CO2 concentration of 4,100 ppm with a range of 300-11,300 ppm (Hagar 2003).”

    • Why would we ever want to take CO2 out of the air? The atmosphere needs more CO2 NOT less.

  4. Could this end up being an actual global warming experiment. If they reduce CO2 levels down to pre-industrial times, we will be able to see what happens to temperatures.

    • If the effect of CO2 is as large as the IPCC needs to justify its existence, the presumed ‘forcing’ will force the planet into a 100 thousand year long ice age.

    • Since the warmists consider than increasing CO2 has caused global warming, surely they must agree that removing CO2 will cause cooling? And who can I sue as the level drops from 407 towards 150, thus endangering my life? Meanwhile, our NZ Socialist government has announced Green-influenced plans for a zero-carbon economy – no doubt in line with Green extremists’ wish to eliminate human life!

      • Jacinta’s hodgepodge of Marxist loons is really upsetting. $50 million given away to offset some bizarre climate guilt. and $80 million to blanket poison our forests, endlessly.
        The greens do appear to hate human endeavour. I’m looking forward to the cognitive dissonance when they reveal Franz Josef Glacier grew this year

      • And since the increase in forcing is logarithmic decreasing the level of CO2 would be a very touchy exercise 30 or 40 PPM could be a disaster that would spiral us into a new ice age.

    • Even if they sequester the CO2 they extract, they won’t be able to put a dent in world-wide levels of CO2. They also won’t be able to make money on the process, so they will likely go broke unless the government funds them. However, if they make fuel out of the extracted CO2, they can sell the fuel and make some money. But then the process would only be carbon-neutral because burning the fuel will release the CO2 back into the air.

  5. Atmospheric CO2 is also a practically unlimited feedstock for things called plants, which are also a bit more effective in converting it into polysaccharides. As CO2 is not a climate driver there is no need for elaborate schemes to do something which nature does perfectly well on its own. A solution for an imaginary problem.

    • I am sure that this atmospheric CO2 to fuel scheme would cost less if they made the fuel from trees, instead of directly from the air.

      The irony is that this process is no more (and in fact no less) carbon neutral than fossil fuels.

    • Nope. Real. In my town. The interesting thing was when the enviros realized this was “just a way to perpetuate the fossil fuel economy”. We are all a bit perplexed at this plant – not sure if it is a real project , or just a way to keep the grant money flowing.

  6. Scanning through the paper, it appears no actual fuels were produced. Meanwhile, the forests and grasslands and crops in the northern hemisphere are doing the job nicely. When can we finally accept that CO2 is not a pollutant?

      • Sorry Scot but please do not continue to promulgate that old urban myth. The buyers knew exactly what they were buying. They not only examined the bridge but took their time calculating the cost of disassembly and transport before putting in a bid.

  7. Instead of doing this, you could just burn the money and use that fire for heat and energy. I am sure it would be more economical.

    • Indeed. Thermodynamically even more favorable if you add all of the money spent building the ‘big solar and wind farms’ needed to generate the intermittent and unreliable electricity they want to use to power the CO2 suckers!

      There is a silver lining here, however…. If you devote all of the intermittent and unreliable solar and wind energy to solely power off-grid monstrosities like this proposal, the national electrical grid becomes immediately more stable, reliable, and the life cycle cost of grid based energy produced drops!

  8. At least they give a cost estimate, but it is still rather question-begging as to global warming.

  9. Yes, because we need to steal the food of all the plants on the planet.
    I would generally expect to be reading someone making fun of an article like this on WUWT. Instead, WUWT is actually publishing this kind of stuff directly.

  10. The paper mostly describes a method to capture CO2 and turn it into solid CaCO3. For their CO2 to fuel process, they rely on hydrogen derived from electrolysis.

    Hydrogen from electrolysis requires a separate power plant. The idea that the process will ever produce economic fuels is utter BS.

      • Bake the CaCO3 at high temp, the CO2 is released. The CO2 in pure form is a sought after bulk commodity so that it can be processed into CO, which can then be converted by Fischer-Tropsch to synthetic methane, propane, gasoline, diesel, and wax.
        The CaCO3 is converted back to CaO upon release of the CO2. The CaO is then used in the machine to absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere, thus the CaO is used in a loop as a CO2 capture mechanism. The purpose of this machine is an effective CO2 capture mechanism, compared to say liquefaction methods or biomass oxidation.

        The Fischer-Tropsch synthetic fuels need CO+H2 as feedstock (called syngas). Over a simple iron-oxide catalyst, can make any synthetic liquid and gas fuel (from methane to octane to cetane to waxes). The process makes a very high quality ‘neat’ fuel, i.e. almost entirely paraffins. (Aside: most gasoline and diesel is a complex soup of paraffins, olefins, aromatics, and other complex organics. These other complex carbon compounds reduce the octane & cetane ratings, cause gumming, and other unwanted side effects of combustion performance.)

        The CO2 to CO process can be done by ‘reverse water gas shift’, there might be a better method, I don’t know for sure. Anyway, RWGS also requires H2.
        The H2 can be made by electrolysis sourced from hydroelectric, solar, wind, or nuclear.

        The output is a high quality traditional fuel that can be burned by traditional engines, and can be more efficient if optimized. They would then release the CO2 to the air. This machine would capture the CO2 from the air, and close the carbon cycle. It is not a perpetual motion machine. The actual energy driving everything is nuke, solar, wind, or hydro (for a non-carbon source), the synthetic fuel just repackages that primary energy in a convenient, easy to carry form.

  11. It is a remarkable technology, especially considering that LENR equipment can be manufactured this year.

  12. I’m always amused by the terms “scalable and cost-effective” The cost of doing anything, at small scale, in an academic environment is negligible because the overhead and external costs are zero. Move this outside that environment, do the design and engineering work, and then come back to me with the notion of scalability and an objective cost-benefit analysis.

  13. The plants already do that, why reinvent the wheel? Simply let the plants pull the CO2 out of the atmosphere and turn the plants into fuel. That process is called the Fischer-Tropsch Process and has been used for years. My bet it is far cheaper to scoop up lawn clippings and paper garbage than run that machine. Anyway, yes, converting existing CO2 into fuel is a great idea. We should be spending money developing Fischer-Tropsch and related technology refineries instead of wasteful wind and solar.

  14. At about 240 kg of CO2 per barrel of oil, it takes 3.75 barrels of oil to produce 1 ton of CO2. Even at the overly optimistic cost of $200 per ton to extract, you still need to disassociate a lot of water to get the needed hydrogen to make fuel which adds another couple of hundred dollars per ton. The bottom line is that it still looks like it takes more fuel to make the fuel being produced. And of course, it always takes more energy to produce fuel than is released by burning the produced fuel.

    Why is it that all these ‘remedies’ for a climate crisis that’s precluded by the laws of physics sound like perpetual motion machines? Perhaps it’s because perpetual motion is precluded by the same laws?

  15. It’s too bad that lots of electricity consumers are already maxed out paying for massive windmills. We told you clowns that you have hundreds of years to see if this is really a problem and to come up with ways to address it, but no. You had to go and jump the gun and spend all your money on windmills. This is why we can’t have nice things.

  16. Carbon dioxide can be removed from the air (if desired) by contacting air with certain chemicals, including caustic solution, which forms dissolved carbonates.

    But trying to produce hydrocarbon fuels from carbon dioxide is counterproductive, and downright stupid. The First Law of Thermodyamics tells us that if an exothermic reaction, such as fuel + oxygen –> CO2 + steam, is run backwards, the backward reaction requires as much net energy input as the forward reaction releases.

    The Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that in any energy conversion process, some energy is lost to the surroundings as heat.

    This means that more energy input is required to convert CO2 back to fuel as could be obtained by burning the fuel. Why should any sane person want to do this?

    • I doubt that any of the authors have heard of, or if they understand any of the laws of thermodynamics. The first and second law of thermodynamics are the two laws before which every other law of physics must bow. Any proposed process which violates those laws just validates the PT Barnum Law (there is a sucker born every minute).

    • “Why should any sane person want to do this?”

      Because electro-chemical batteries suck. Even Li-ion still suck compared to a high quality gasoline or diesel fuel, by an order of magnitude worse energy/volume and energy/mass density. Using this as one step in a syn-fuel process enables converting plentiful nuke (or other) energy to a more convenient, easy to carry form, that is a nearly trivial drop in replacement for the gasoline and diesel infrastructure.

      If and when we run out of oil and gas, this could be really useful to perpetuate the ICE.

  17. These people need to get out a little more. A visit to a gas station in the US or Brazil shows that capture of CO2 from the atmosphere and creation of fuel is already an industrialized process and motorists are already using ethanol from that process. Plants (not industrial plant – green growing plants) photosynthesize using CO2 from the atmosphere and create sugars which can then be used to create ethanol for fuels.

    • And industrial hemp is best for biofuels. Low moisture, easy to grow, doesn’t need a lot of water or fertilizer, pest resistant. The U.S. is slowly coming around to removing industrial hemp from the drug list, it should happen this year. This will be the next major cash crop for the U.S.

  18. The more CO2 there is in the air, the more efficient this thing is going to be. So obviously we need to start boosting CO2 levels as fast as we can.

  19. Another green energy fantasy. All it needs is cheap, unlimited, carbon-free energy to be practical. But if we had a cheap, unlimited, carbon-free energy why would we need it?

  20. “This image shows Carbon Engineering’s clean fuel, synthesized from carbon dioxide captured from the air and hydrogen split from water. CREDIT Carbon Engineering”

    There’s the gotcha. Where is the power coming from to liberate the hydrogen used in the process? By their own admission, wind and solar are intermittent at best.

  21. The natural photosynthesis machine, at 90% efficiency, well beyond anything we can build (so far), is still not a perpetum-mobile. There is an exiton quantum process at work which is extremely interesting. We are already making quantum computers, quantum machines are surely next.

    I would not rule out a “PhotonSynth Inc” someday. For sure its devices will not look like a pile of crude stone-age ventilators, with its products covering the entire gamut of organics and more…
    So yes to real science of photosynthesis, living processes, instead of this diversion…
    For serious energy, neutron and proton machines please.
    This giant sucking sound is dumbing-down, as if some do not want us to master living machines.

    Meanwhile the indefinitely surprising natural machines are busily humming on.

    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynthetic_efficiency
      For actual sunlight, where only 45% of the light is in the photosynthetically active wavelength range, the theoretical maximum efficiency of solar energy conversion is approximately 11%. In actuality, however, plants do not absorb all incoming sunlight (due to reflection, respiration requirements of photosynthesis and the need for optimal solar radiation levels) and do not convert all harvested energy into biomass, which results in an overall photosynthetic efficiency of 3 to 6% of total solar radiation.

      3-6%. I’m sure we can do better. And maybe we will have to – while we don’t know if e-batteries will ever be good enough, the option to produce an optimal hydrocarbon fuel out of thin air might be possible. Maybe chemically, maybe through GMO bacteria or algae. All of this for the post-oil times of course.

  22. And just how much energy does this magical process take?
    Another hare-brained boondoggle from the green scamsters.

  23. Why do these megalomaniacs want to CO2 starve all of the plants on planet earth, in a vainglorious attempt to solve a non-problem with monumentally stupid non-solution?

    • I suppose when you burn this superfuel, the CO2 is returned to the atmosphere, not lost.

  24. Now that we are at the 30th anniversary of Hansen’s famous 1988 climate model forecasts, a few things come to mind.

    Remember the Scenario A, B and C? “A” was for “business as usual”, while “C” was with drastic GHG cuts.

    Some Hansen apologists claim that Scenario B is what has verified. The reality is that emissions have been far higher than imagined and definitely a Scenario A+. But a funny thing happened. The atmosphere has removed far more of the CO2 than anticipated. So, in 1988, they assumed that concentrations would be much higher than 407ppm given the emissions.

    So, Hansen was wrong about a lot of things, including the amount of CO2 that would stay in the atmosphere. Apparently, plants are hungry and eat that stuff up leading to global greening.

    Anyway, the atmospheric concentration now is apparently slightly less than Scenario A despite the “more than business as usual” emissions.

    Instead of acknowledging that Hansen 1988 was wrong on CO2 staying power and climate sensitivity, the apologists instead claim Scenario B verified and then use the wildly adjusted GISS data and then claim that the forecast was “pretty good”

    But an honest forecast minus observed verification yields a hot bias of 2 to 1.

    • So, in 1988, they assumed that concentrations would be much higher than 407ppm given the emissions.

      Hansen’s Scenario B projected 404 ppm CO2 for this year

      • Emissions were far higher than expected and dispersion of CO2 from the atmosphere was higher than expected… two wrongs actually made a right. But hardly a promising forecasting technique going forward.

    • “So, in 1988, they assumed that concentrations would be much higher than 407ppm given the emissions.”
      You need to write the basis for that claim. It isn’t true; as Phil. says, the numerical data from the time gives expected concentrations, and they were almost exactly in line with Scenario B.

      The usual error here is interpreting Hansen’s “1.5% increase” in emissions. He didn’t mean 1.5% of the measured emissions; he didn’t have a figure for measured emissions. He meant a 1.5% increase in the observed concentration increment, as you can see from his arithmetic. And that turned out right.

    • You will all get a chance to look at more figures CO2 emission is on target to go up 3.7% this year (1st quarter was 4%) and most are forecasting the same next year.

  25. Perchance, is it April 1st on the planet where these folks come from?
    And how much of my tax money was splurged on this stupidity by the US DOE?
    AND THIS is a perfect, if but only 1, example of why Trump got elected: Carbon Engineering, a CANADIAN CO2-capture and clean fuels enterprise. Hey, Canadians, if you can’t come up with enough money to funded this kind of stupidity, go put your hand in someone else’s pocket. STAY OUT OF MINE!

  26. my gosh if this works so well where are all the retrofits for cars to connect this directly to the exhaust and to the gasoline fill tube….. the cars will be able to run forever on one tank of gas!!!! hmmmmm not sure why but I am thinking of 2 words…. Rube Goldberg

    Cheers!

    Joe

  27. One acre of Paulownia trees require all the CO2 from 5 cubic kilometers of air per year to grow at current rates. Do the math on that and it becomes apparent that for plant growth, the component of air that’s critical for their survival (0.05% CO2) is not exactly abundant. Of course they *can* survive all stunted and decrepid, but in the carbon cycle we call life, that doesn’t bode well for the other life forms connected to Paulownia sp.

    I’ve made an offer to one of these firms before and I stand by it – I’ll pay for a greenhouse set up pre-intake and post-treatment to monitor how well plants do under ‘polluted’ air versus the “clean” stuff they pump out. Of course they never responded..

    And wait, how much did they say their fuel will cost?? Good lord no. Let me guess – would part of that cost be to pay for the massive amount of coal powered electricity they’ll be using to run this conversion? Egads – I thought we’d finally left perpetual motion machines behind.

  28. Is this all a joke? Have these Canadians ever heard of thermodynamics?
    I hope that their paper contains some actual practical numbers including the full energy analysis.

    • “Have these Canadians ever heard of thermodynamics?”
      I’m sure they acknowledge that there is an energy cost. Conversion to fuel is an incidental to their scheme, which is basically air capture. As I understand it, the argument would be that making fuel, using presumably renewable energy, could be economic relative to burying CO₂, and would fill the gap in renewables about powering aircraft etc.

  29. Biomass from multiple sources can be produced with a cost of roughly $70/MT. This is about $140/ton of Carbon. Removing CO2 from air costs a minimum of $345/ton carbon or roughly 2.5X the cost of using biomass. If the biomass is from landfills, the cost is only the cost of separation of carbonaceous feeds from non-carbonaceous fees (rock, dirt, metals, etc.).
    The next step is to convert CO2 into something useful which is most often syngas (CO + H2 in some ratio). With CO2 as a feed, this requires reduction using some form of energy. Methane reforming of CO2 is probably the most cost effective, but people are also considering electrolysis using fuel cells operated in reverse which consumes huge amounts of electricity. (for example, see: https://www.ems.psu.edu/~elsworth/courses/egee580/2010/Final%20Reports/co2_electrochem.pdf)
    Next is conversion into fuel. Fischer-Tropsch technology would make paraffinic hydrocarbons, and copper catalysts can make alcohols of various types, mostly methanol, but ethanol and others are possible. Hydrocarbon fuels are the most energy dense and useable storage vehicle for any energy source, which is why crude oil is the ideal source of low cost transportation energy.
    Trying to remove CO2 from the air is only slightly less fanciful than trying to remove CO2 from sea water, which is also under consideration.

  30. Locate these in high CO2 environments (like exhaust from coal plants) and you should get an even better ROI.

    I’m skeptical of the numbers, but if they’re going to do the testing, do it where the circumstances favor success, so that further analysis can show if it’s widely applicable.

  31. All these processes are very energy intensive, further increasing their carbon footprint to fix a non-problem. The electricity they propose to use is also more expensive than traditional power plants. The laws of thermodynamics are still operative and there is no magic way to turn CO2 into fuel besides letting nature take her course. More energy is required to reverse the reaction than you got out of it because the increase in entropy also has to be reversed. Photosynthesis is a win-win-win.

  32. Oh my!! I wonder how much fossil fuel generated electricity was sucked up in this test!! It has to be more than any fuel produced!!

    We are into perpetual motion machine crap here!!!

  33. The US Navy is working on just such a scheme for the Ford Class Carriers to make jet fuel on board. The easiest way to reduce the effectiveness of carriers is to interrupt their supply chain delivering jet fuel. Key is that the reactors on the Ford class were designed to provide an excess of energy beyond what is needed to propel the ship so are also capable of powering “rail gun” catapults, energy weapons to defend the ship from hypersonic missiles, and still have some capacity to make fuel. Considering the cost of having refueling ships shuttling back and forth to the carriers and the ongoing costs of operating a carrier if air operations cannot be conducted, onboard manufacturing is a small cost to maintain operational status.

  34. They don’t say how much energy they put into the process, but it has to be a lot more than they get out or we would have a perpetual motion machine. So how many pounds of carbon is required to extract each pound of carbon?

    The best and cheapest method of carbon capture is to stop cutting your grass and let the weeds grow. Might need to change a few zoning ordinances to make that to happen, though.

  35. I did a back of the envelope calculation for my group on this a few years back, comparing modern petrol to pure electric cars powered directly by nuclear electricity and synthetic fuels created using the same nuclear electric energy source, probably at night to shed load from a nuclear grid. David MacKay helped with insight from his solar paper and a quick sanity check of the numbers. I liked how much that rational solution would annoy green irrationals by fueling gas guzzling SUVs with wholly sustainable and renewable IC fuel made by “decarbonising” the atmosphere using nuclear power. It’s about 7 times the current manufacturing cost of petrol (not price, note), whereas electric cars have an equivalent cost of 50% more than petrol per KWh. Please feel free to check the numbers. Here are some abstracts from the full document. Enjoy and criticise away, with alternative verifiable facts such as I employ.
    =========================
    Hope this is of interest, and even useful to some as intended. I will publish any corrections based on independently verifiable facts. I have not seen anything that attempts this before, it may be out there.

    I have used Prof David MacKay’s Solar energy adequacy work – abstract and reference at the end – to cost the progressive ways we could use abundant nuclear energy to manufacture synthetic chemical fuel to power our personal transport when fossil fuels and oil feedstock become an uneconomic and rationed resource.

    Obviously other synthetics can replace plastic feed stock, ethylene C2H4 and Propylene C3H6. Things are chemically sustainable, the required molecules are still all out there, just add energy.

    We have the science and some of the technology to put them together as required. It’s really a question of affordable deliverability, the real delivered costs per kWh to the bill payers, that opinionated ideologists and politicians invariably ignore the practical reality of, if they have the formation to understand it, and if they are ever are told the facts by Humphrey as he presents the lobbyist’s legislation to sign and whip through.

    So, I offer some answers re petrol, immediately for the hard of time/science/attention. These results are expressed as the directly comparable costs of delivering energy to the vehicle’s transmission using retail prices. The details follow.

    1) Powering a Vehicle Directly with Electricity = 30p/kWh (no tax)
    2) Powering a vehicle with synthetic petrol manufactured using the same Electricity = 135p/kWh (no tax)
    3) Current Petrol Cost = 19p/kWh before tax (45p/kWh after tax @ £1.30/l)

    DETAILS:
    The Calculations: It’s quite simple.

    On enquiring of this group I was guided to a recent paper by Prof David MacKay – who advises the DECC

    MacKay DJC. 2013 Solar energy in the context of energy use, energy transportation
    and energy storage. Phil Trans R Soc A 371: 20110431.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2011.0431

    David has addressed this question as part of research into the supply realities of solar energy that can be applied in this context. I validated his energy intensity figures other ways.. The paper is interesting for its approach to the realities of powering developed economies with real time solar derived energy sources in various latitudes. Roughly all the solar energy incident on the entire UK land surface is about a match with our current energy use, if I read it right. Of course that isn’t always available when required and can’t be collected without covering the entire UK land surface in renewables”

    I use his approach on page 23 which is also copied below to scope an answer to the real question for our competitive and still developed economy…

    – How much would synthetic petrol cost, and when is its use economically justified versus electric propulsion?

    Here’s the summary:

    HOW? We can use all you can eat affordable zero carbon electrical energy from nuclear power to manufacture relatively light liquid or gaseous synthetic fuel to combust to liberate energy at the time of use, as we mainly do now. WE have the technology to replace natural feedstocks with synthetics, given plentiful nuclear eenrgy.

    This process captures CO2 from the atmosphere plus water as feed stock, and effectively recycles the CO2 emissions of its own product, so is operationally carbon neutral. This is as sustainable as our Sun. Only nuclear binding energy is used, to restore chemical molecular binding energy. We could also make Methane, Methanol and Ethylene (Plastics feed stock)

    HOW MUCH? I have simply compared the direct costs of an electric vehicle with one powered by liquid fuel manufactured using the same electricity.

    Start off by assuming the monstrously fraudulent one bidder deal with EDF @ 9p/kWh strike price for wholesale nuclear electricity on the grid (i), plus the current 6p/kWh paid in retail charges for all the other distribution and service provision costs, say 15p/kWh retail. This applies to both applications so affects the absolute value but does not affect the relative comparison

    (i) should be 6p/kWh as it is elsewhere for new nuclear deals not done between French and British Civil servants for their lobbyists (EDF is owned by the French government).

    1) Powering a Vehicle Directly with (nuclear) Electricity = 30p/kWh (no tax) :

    To charge a battery is roughly 50% efficient, so in energy available to the vehicle transmission that works out at 2 x 15p/kWh = 30p/kWh.

    Plus the additional costs of battery supply and management. I have not included grid losses.

    2) Powering the same vehicle with synthetic petrol Manufactured Using Nuclear Electricity = 135p/kWh (no tax) :

    Per the referenced paper to energise the chemical process takes 13kWh of energy per Kg and is around 38% efficient, so requires 35kWh of energy to produce 1 Kg of petrol.

    This gives back 13 kWh of energy on combustion, which is converted with c.30% energy efficiency in modern IC engines for delivery to the transmission.

    So 35kWh input costs 525p and delivers 3.9kWh at the transmission = 135p/kWh

    3) Current Petrol Cost = 19p/kWh before tax (45p/kWh after tax):

    For comparison fossil derived petrol is currently £1.30/L, which is £1.75/Kg at a density of 0.74Kg/L.

    This petrol delivers 13kWh of energy, converted to 3.9kWh of motive energy at 30% efficiency, so the cost per kWh at the transmission is

    175p/kg / (13 x 0.3) kWh/kg = 45p/kWh

    This is after tax, before tax it is 55p/litre delivered to the forecourt, so true cost is 45p/kWh x (55/130) = 19p/kWh before tax.

    NOTES:

    (i) Whoever takes the lead in the inevitable mass build of nuclear power to replace fossil fuel generation could mop up some of the third world’s CO2 emissions (in net storage, as we re emit the atmospheric CO2 we use to create the fuel when burning the fuel.

    This is entirely sustainable apart from the nuclear binding energy consumed.

    (ii) Using a liquid, solid, or even gaseous form of intense chemical energy which can be easily transported and conveniently replenished when and where required, is a proven and much more practical way to energise transportation. Lugging pure electrical energy around in heavy chemical storage containers of limited capacity that have a high transport cost of their own, are inconvenient to swop out, and slow to charge is not. Unfortunately the economics of synthetic fuel appear to put this option at a price premium to batteries.

    (iii) There are Some Progressive Ways Solar Energy could be harvested far away to make synthetic fuels where it is cheapest in terms of solar energy and land use costs and availability (Saudi/Libya when theoil runs out!) As with the ice ships of old transporting ice from cold parts of the world to cool the larders of landowner aristos, but in reverse, f as fuel made from stored chemical enrgy ..

    That’s what I think. Solve the end of fossil and energy supply problems progressively with real science that can work, versus legislating green beliefs that cannot on the science fact.

    You?

  36. Are these people serious that this is in any way a practical solution? Try to get investors. Oh hold on, the government will like it, so the taxpayers can invest without their permission.

  37. A Co2 sucker , just like a scary global warming sucker .
    Let’s kid ourselves this contraption , plus millions of others like it , would regulate the exact amount of Co2 in the atmosphere . Who sets the desired amount ? Who would ever guess we will have world wars over who controls the Co2 knob ?

    • It may tend to dampen unreasonable fear of the potential future CO2 menace, possibly, according to my ad hoc models.

  38. I really hate to rain on their parade, but we already have this tech. It is called “trees”, for lignin based fuels, or “algae” for ethanols.

  39. At a concentration of 1/25th part of ONE percent it would be necessary to process 1, 000 000 kg of air in order to extract 400 kg of CO2…which would then need to be ‘converted’ into 200 kg of a useful fuel.
    Nope…

  40. Boy, there is a lot I don’t know about this idea but given what a low percentage CO2 is in the air it seems like it would take a high volume of air to get a small amount of CO2. Do they scrub a 100% of the CO2 out of the air? Don’t locate these plants near highly vegetated areas. Poor plants will start dying off. How much energy will it take to run this process? Is that economical? If this is in fact reasonable, the environmentalists just lost their best argument to demand switching to expensive, non-carbon producing energy sources.

  41. Well assuming they do actually hit the 232 per ton (they wont, not even close) that still works out to a handsome 2.55 per gallon increase in gasoline tax for the CO2. Funny that, that is just what the progressives have been hoping for, for the past 20 years. I say BS on the 232 per ton in the first place however, and since it is NOT even necessary to remove the CO2 as so far it has been beneficial it is nothing more than a continuation of the Progressive Tax Grab scheme.

  42. Perhaps I am missing something. Exactly how do you make gasoline out of CO2? Does CO2 actually contain all the components of gasoline? Really?

    • They propose reacting CO2 with hydrogen to produce hydrocarbons. The hydrogen coming from water by electrolysis.

      Again, this all technically quite feasible, but cost makes it unworkable. They suggest energy (electricity) from wind and/or solar. All they need to now do is make wind and solar energy bountiful and fabulously cheap.

      It’s amazing what you can imagine humans might do if you assume free money to build expensive chemical engineering plant, and then free energy to run the processes. They probably assume that the people operating it must also work for free.

      • Ahhh, so just more fantasy mumbo jumbo. Got it. I have a bit of a clue about making gasoline and was fairly certain CO2 was not the secret ingredient.

    • You have to add hydrogen to get to gasoline, it’s a hydrocarbon. Gotta split water for that.

      • Splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen is rather expensive, so this would be a flat out non-starter.

  43. When they suck all the CO2 out of the air they’ll face millions of irate farmer suing them for ruining their crops.

  44. How much fossil fuel is used to generate the electricity used to create the new fuels from atmospheric CO2 and is it any less than the fuels produced? Those are the critical numbers. They explain why converting 40% of corn crops to ethanol is a losing game except for those who grow the corn. Perhaps the authors are inspired by the artificial (magical) carbon economy that prices carbon credits as if they were fairy dust.

  45. This proposal is not totally daft. It certainly isn’t as daft as forcing unreliable uneconomic energy into the grid. The proposers do point out that it is a way of transforming unreliable energy sources into reliable transportable energy – ie. they do not claim that they have a new source of energy.

    But just how economically competitive is it? The article puts the cost at $94-232 per ton of CO2. It doesn’t state explicitly that this includes the cost of stripping the O2 from the C, but let’s suppose that it does. Let’s also take the low end of the cost range, since development and use of the system is likely to bring down the unit cost. That gives us a cost of $94*(44/12) = $345 per ton of C fuel. The current price of oil is about $65/bbl, or something like $480 per ton.

    So I say – let them go for it, using their own money not mine. If they succeed in an open and fair market, then they deserve their success. It could be hugely beneficial, by (a) removing unreliable energy from the grid and (b) making renewable energy available for transport. The only downside that I can see is that if the climate does cool, then they will be making it worse by reducing the amount of greenhouse gas. But the effect of that is unlikely to be measurable. So I repeat – let them go for it, using their own money, and I truly hope they succeed. But not with any of my money.

  46. Same old same old expensive technological solution for a non-problem.
    Yes, like travelling to the moon, we can do it, but the cost remains prohibitive for all practical purposes.
    Their chemistry and engineering seems fine, but it is a waste of money and human intellectual capacity, at least until such time as energy is much cheaper than it is today. But the whole point of the global-warmers and other associated environmental extremists goals, is that they want to make energy more expensive, not less.

    Meanwhile, trees still do it with great efficiency almost for free, self propagating, needing almost zero management and maintenance. The cost of growing forest cellulose/lignin is thus not measured in hundreds of dollars per ton. They also look and smell nice, provide all sorts of extra benefits such as living environments for many other life forms, help ameliorate hydrological and atmospheric pollution issues, afford recreational opportunities, building materials, increase local property value, inspire artists, generally make people happier…the list goes on and on and on.

  47. America uses about 20 million barrels of oil per day
    Transportation within the USA uses about 71% of the daily use of 20 million barrels of oil or about 14 million barrels per day.

    The promoters of this atmospheric CO2 extraction process suggest an “industrial sized” extraction to oil processor” as having a capacity of 2000 barrels a day.

    Therefore just to cover the total daily use of 14 million barrels of oils by the USA transportation sector would require at least a minimum of 7000 of these industrialised extraction plants.

    Or 10, 000 of those atmospheric CO2 extraction plants to cover all of those 20 million Barrels of oil used daily by the USA.

    No numbers seem to be provided on the amount of electrical energy required to extract each barrel equivalent of oil from the atmosphere except to claim that wind turbines would be utilised to provide the energy required for all of those 7000 atmospheric CO2 extractors / converters .

    As the USA is on the point of becoming an exporter of USA origin oil, oil that is becoming surplus to its own requirements and being now the second largest producer of oil in the world, the whole exercise seems rather pointless.
    Pointless as is usual for this type of projected wishful thinking by innumerate academics who don’t or can’t understand the methods used to cost a process or the scale required or the power required or ther severe and crippling limitations created by their “renewable energy can power everything “and stop the hypothetical , yet to be seen and accurately measured so called Climate Change.”

  48. So…. gasoline is now renewable? Assuming a solar powered process, have we just cut out plants and animals in the production of fuels?

  49. Wow. Perpetual motion at last. Burn it, turn it back into fuel and burn it again.
    The 2nd Law was made to be broken.

  50. Why on Earth would anyone want to rob the air of vital plant food, rather than continue to increase its almost starvation level by burning more fossil fuels, releasing this essential trace gas from its terrestrial prisons?

  51. Ummm,,, gosh, no they haven’t. Where do they get the hydrogen? Takes more energy to obtain hydrogen than this process could ever produce.

    Yes you could strip CO2 from air with limestone, but this is a net energy loser.

    Not so much…

    • Good one Will. But do you think this will be the end of anything? Redistributionist leftists are looking forward to a century of hundreds of trillions of $$$ (Thank you Paris Agreement) to give away to tin pot dictators, climate bureaucrats and their own pockets to “solve” the climate problem. Will they let go of all that cash that easy? Hey, maybe they’ll invent some new problem about some other naturally occurring compound. Personally I’ve always been a little suspicious of H2O.

  52. Assuming this process isn’t too expensive, it implies that internal combustion engines do not face certain extinction by 2100 from a paucity of petroleum.
    Therefore, it does not make sense to anticipate such an extinction by force-marching us toward an all-electric infrastructure and transportation system. Such a forcing is not necessarily an unavoidable step in the long run.

  53. “By removing emitted carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into fresh fuels” Or we can just use photosynthesis and fermentation to produce alcohol for cars, which Brazil had been doing now for decades.

  54. OK, so this isn’t such a bright idea. For one thing, why use windmills to generate electricity to power other windmills to recreate the wind that produced the original power? How efficient is that going to be? Why not just put the reaction beds out in the wind where the windmills already are?

  55. Talk about scalable? Have a look at J Craig Venter, Synthia and his plans to scrub CO2 to produce methane. Guess my money is on him.

  56. In reading this article, I noticed several statements:

    CO2 is absorbed by an aqueous solution. Does this mean that they intend to shut down when air temperatures drop much below 0° C?

    The authors expect to locate these plants near cheap renewable production sites. Renewables are described by many adjectives, but “cheap” is not one of them. Any energy production method which requires massive taxpayer subsidies to be competitive is by definition not “cheap.”

    These issues cause me to question the costs which they used in their analysis which lead the authors to believe that their process would be cost effective.

  57. Just coincidentally I’m sure, this is also an extremely efficient process to suck the money out of taxpayer pockets. And isn’t that the whole point anyway.

  58. A bit off topic, but has it been researched by what extent the growth rates of the carbon based life form species, i.e. human beings, increased as CO2 levels have increased, or has all extra growth we see in succeeding generations been attributed to nutrition.
    Similarly, was the size of the giant dinosaurs due to higher CO2 levels, or is it just plants that benefited?

  59. It’s time to quantify the amount of energy required to undo the bond between the carbon and the oxygen, i.e. the energy released when we burned it in the first place. That’s all the energy which the sun, with the help of plants, deposited in the trees, coal, gas and oil which we burned to give us a standard of living. This has to be the most exquisite put-on I have ever read. Where is Harvard?

  60. I would not want to live down wind from a scaled up version of this. CO2 is essential for life, animal and plant.
    So where is the energy coming from?

  61. The problem is that, if they were somehow successful, they would be sued by leftist cities and states for the damage caused by reduced plant growth and increased poverty due to lower CO2 levels.
    (This would in no way reduce the number of suits they would still file against fossil fuel makers for supposedly increasing global warming.)

  62. “Centuries of unchecked human carbon emissions also mean that atmospheric carbon dioxide is a virtually unlimited feedstock for transformation into new fuels.”

    Our 100s of years of emissions have nothing to do with today’s atmospheric CO2 concentration. Right here, they are showing their ignorance and lack of depth of knowledge.

    There is simply no way that reforming CO2 into hydrocarbon fuels can be anywhere as cost efficient as extracting them from the ground as natural gas and oil. Converting electricity from wind or solar to chemical energy will have several steps, all of which must lose energy to be accomplished, per the laws of thermodynamics.

    Also, as the Sun sets and the wind dies, this industry would be inherently sporadic and there is no way, without a horribly cost ineffective collection grid to bring energy for different regions together to create a reliable energy source.

    Another non-starter brought to us by the Boondoggle Climate Change Alarmist Industry of Crony Capitalism. Another total waste of money, as useful as biofuels from algae. Both do not pass the smell test.

  63. “… the gasoline you buy might trace its heritage to carbon dioxide pulled straight out of the sky. … engineers … have demonstrated a scalable and cost-effective way to make deep cuts in the carbon footprint of transportation…”

    1. So their machine can recognize the difference between a CO2 molecule produced by anything transportation related, and all other CO2 molecules?

    2. By “cost-effective” I assume they mean they have a product that some willing buyer someplace is willing to pay them an amount that will be greater than the cost it takes them to produce, market and deliver that product? ‘Cuz iffen they don’t, it ain’t “cost-effective”.

    “…claim that realizing direct air capture on an impactful scale will cost roughly $94-$232 per ton of carbon dioxide captured…”

    3. So what’s that in $/gal of gasoline? (See 2. above WRT “cost-effective”.) Will it have the same BTU/gal as gasoline?

    4. Last, but possibly most importantly, WHY?!?!?! This Earth has been near to starvation of CO2 for several thousand years, it needs more CO2, not less. Maybe this is something I don’t need to worry about, the graphics from the satellite clearly show CO2 produced by/from masses of civilization is inconsequential for all intents and purposes, our efforts to remove CO2 from the atmosphere will undoubtedly have an even less noticeable effect.
    So, yeah, other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

  64. We need more CO2 to increase the plant life that we all depend on for life. There is not an overabundance of it in the air, so if it is sucked up to produce energy, then there will be less for plants and life. However, there may be a way to get around this. There is lots of CO2 in the oceans. There is lots to learn yet.

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