This startup has found a way to remove CO2 from the air and turn it into pellets

It’s time to clean up the air.
It’s time to clean up the air.
Image: Reuters/ David Cerny
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An “air capturing” plant is taking in air through giant fans, filtering out the carbon dioxide, absorbing the gas in liquid, and converting it into pellets in a bid to combat climate change.

A Canadian start up, backed by Bill Gates, built its first such plant in Squamish, Vancouver, where members of the aboriginal Squamish Nation blessed the opening on Friday, Oct. 9. The $9m plant has captured 10 tonnes of CO2 since operations began in June, according to AFP.

There are plans to use the carbon pellets alongside hydrogen to make environmentally friendly fuel, as described in this diagram:

Image for article titled This startup has found a way to remove CO2 from the air and turn it into pellets

“It’s not something that we were the first to think about it,” chief executive Adrian Corless told Canadian Press. “I think we’re just the first to be in position with that key piece of technology — which is the scalable source of atmospheric CO2 — that allows you to think about making a larger scale fuel synthesis plant.”

Harvard University climate scientist David Keith founded the company, Carbon Engineering, in 2009, and plans to sharply increase the scale of the work. Carbon Engineering is aiming to build a $200 million commercial plant by 2017 and start selling synthetic fuels by 2018. The larger plant should produce 200 to 400 litres of gasoline or diesel per day, according to the Canadian Press.

Corless said that the current plant is just a pilot-scale version, but will shape their future work.

“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,” he explained.

And he told AFP that the fuels produced could be used in existing cars and planes.

“You don’t have to re-tool the $30 trillion in (global) infrastructure now used to deliver fossil fuels,” he said.