Scientists say cost of sucking carbon from thin air could tumble

Maybe we can afford to suck CO2 out of the sky after all

Is that gasoline in the making pouring out of those smokestacks?

The lower price-point would make direct air capture a viable option to start tackling the 20% of global carbon emissions from driving, flying and trucking.

By removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into fresh fuels, through a process known as direct air capture, engineers at a Canadian firm have outlined a "scalable and cost-effective" way to reduce the planet's carbon footprint without having to disrupt industries.

The technology will soon be able to produce gasoline and jet fuel from little more than limestone, hydrogen, and air, researchers said.

In 2011, a pair of influential papers all but sounded the death knell for direct air capture, concluding that the approach would cost almost an order of magnitude more than capturing the greenhouse gas from power-plant stacks. Doing that on a large scale would nearly surely require significant cost reductions, a high price on carbon, or other public policy support.

And new research released this week shows that the process carries a relatively low cost - far lower than initial estimates of USD$600 per ton to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. David Keith in a statement. In 2015, Carbon Engineering launched its first pilot plant for capturing CO2 in British Columbia in Canada.

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While Keith has admitted that there are "hundreds of ways in which we can fail", the technology developments at Carbon Engineering are promising. CE has a pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia, which has been removing Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere since 2015. The resulting fuel could be made at a relatively low cost of just USD$1 per litre.

The implications of CE's proven DAC technology on climate strategy are twofold - it allows the removal of existing Carbon dioxide from the air to counteract emissions too challenging or costly to eliminate at source, and enables the production of clean fuels that can significantly reduce transportation emissions. The liquid goes through a series of steps that include freezing it into pellets and then transforming it into a slurry. Then, by heating and chemically messing around with the captured carbon, it can be converted into a source of energy that many fuels require. Each day they absorb about a ton of Carbon dioxide, but they're working on blueprints for a much larger facility which could potentially filter a million tons of Carbon dioxide per year.

The British Columbia-based company has been working to bring down costs. Depending on a variety of design options and economic assumptions, the cost of pulling a tonne of Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere ranges between US$94 and $232. Producing new fuel at the end provides a way to pay for the effort. It is now seeking funding to build an industrial-scale version of the plant, which Keith says it can complete by 2021.

The plant draws in air, Carbon dioxide being scrubbed out and eventually combined with hydrogen to form a variety of different liquid fuels.

Don't miss: 'One Piece' Chapter 907 Spoilers: Are Two Emperors Ready to Team Up? Previous attempts to accomplish this priced the feat at around $600 per ton, the BBC reported. If that problem is not addressed, experts stress, the price tag could run into the trillions of dollars in terms of flooding, as oceans rise and the weather grows more volatile, losses in food production and other problems.