Carbon Engineering, funded by private investors, billionaires Bill Gates and oil sands financier Murray Edwards, extracts carbon by taking in air using fans and separating the carbon by pushing it through filters.
The pilot plant, located in a remote western Canadian community, is designed to capture up to one tonne of CO2 per day, which is the equivalent of taking about 100 cars off the road annually.
The company claims that existing machines capture carbon from smokestacks like those of coal-fired power plants, and the direct air capture plant deals with CO2 produced by transportation, agriculture and buildings, which together represent a third of global emissions.
Adrian Corless, Carbon Engineering’s CEO said:
It’s still a pilot-scale plant. But it’s very important, because it’s the first time that anyone’s demonstrated a technology that captures CO2 that has the potential to be scaled up to be large enough to be relevant from an environmental or climate point of view. It’s now possible to take CO2 out of the atmosphere, and use it as a feed stock, with hydrogen, to produce net zero emission fuels. We plan to use the data from the pilot plant to design our first commercial plant by 2017, which will cost no more than $200 million.
However, to make the project viable economically, they have a long way to go. At the moment, carbon prices around the globe range from less than $1/mt (Mexico and Poland) to $130/mt (Sweden). It is estimated that $100 a tonne would be enough for Carbon Engineering to support itself commercially.