Carbon Engineering Ltd.’s technique combines several common manufacturing processes and will eventually be able to produce fuel for about $4 a gallon, according to David Keith, a Harvard University professor and co-founder of the company.
With oil prices climbing and U.S. gasoline following suit, that’s a level that could make this alternative fuel competitive. Many companies have developed ways to make fuel from plants, trees, sugarcane waste and other substances instead of petroleum, but the challenge has always been the cost. Carbon Engineering’s technique was developed specifically to address this.
“This isn’t some new clever piece of science or weird chemical we synthesized in some fancy lab,” Keith said in an interview. “The key thing that the company’s done from the beginning is focus on doing this in a way that is industrially scalable.”
The “direct air capture” process starts with common industrial cooling systems and a solution that draws carbon from the air, according to a paper published on June 7 in the journal Joule. The carbon is combined with hydrogen to make motor fuel, through a technique used at pulp mills. The most expensive part is the electricity used to extract hydrogen from water.
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