Climate scientists have found a practical method to capture CO2 emissions from the air, and the first plant using this technology has just gone online.
There are three companies currently building the ‘negative emissions’ projects, including Switzerland’s Climeworks, Canada’s Carbon Engineering, and the US’s Global Thermostat, all of which have said the projects are at a reasonable cost and will have the ability to capture CO2 directly from the air.
Climeworks was the first company to prove that it was possible to inject carbon emissions into absorbent rocks, ensuring they do not escape for a million years.
It is estimated that if the technology was to be used near a source of highly concentrated CO2, such as a coal power plant, it would cost between $60 to $100 per metric tonne of CO2 collected from the air.
Each of the innovative startups have built functional pilot plants to prove the technology they are developing works, all of which are modular and can thus be made as large or as small as a company is willing to pay for.
A study from 2016 showed that storing CO2 underground is much safer than previously thought and that once it has been injected into the minerals, the gas cannot escape for millions of years. Furthermore, there is enough of the required dark igneous rock to hold decades worth of emissions.
Edda Aradóttir, a specialist in the field, has said that in the past three years 18,000 metric tonnes of CO2 has been inserted into the ground as part of the project at a cost of less than $30 per metric tonne.
While academics used to think that these techniques would be too expensive for practical purposes, the innovations of these leading companies show that this could be commercially viable in the near future, providing an answer for global commitment, whilst also securing reliable energy to fuel the global demand.