Direct-air carbon capture tech raises queries about where the CO2 will go

An Australian firm could possibly be promoting modules that suck carbon dioxide straight from the air as early as subsequent 12 months, however will probably be as much as the very best bidder to determine what occurs to that CO2 as soon as it’s been captured.

Melbourne-based Southern Green Gas (SGG) has simply introduced a partnership with the Swiss Re Institute, a multinational reinsurance firm, to ship its modules to market.

SGG’s carbon-removal know-how consists of small, solar-powered modules that seize one to 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the ambiance per 12 months.

“We envision seize farms, involving 100,000 to 1,000,000 of our modules, all aggregated collectively,” says Rohan Gillespie, managing director of SGG.

Example molecular model of a metal-organic framework
An instance of the molecular construction of a metal-organic framework. Credit score: theasis / Getty Pictures

The modules use a substance referred to as a metal-organic framework, or MOF, to take away CO2. These MOFs are created from lattices of steel atoms and natural molecules (natural within the chemical sense – composed principally of carbon and hydrogen). They’ll act like large molecular sponges, eradicating CO2, water or different substances, relying on their design.

“There are numerous several types of MOFs,” says Gillespie.

“It’s a platform know-how. It’s a crystalline nanomaterial, and its properties may be tailor-made to go well with the appliance. The actual MOF we use has been finely tuned to soak up CO2 from the ambiance, rather than nitrogen and oxygen. And as soon as they take up CO2, then we use warmth to get it out in pure type. So it’s an absorption-desorption course of.”

Learn extra: A machine to scrub CO₂ from the air

As soon as the gaseous carbon dioxide has been faraway from the MOF, a number of various things may be carried out with it.

“One possibility is to compress it and sequester it underground, so everlasting storage in geological formations – so-called carbon seize and storage,” says Gillespie. It is a method that stretches back several decades, but it surely nonetheless operates at a small scale.

“One other manner is to really embed the CO2 in a product comparable to a carbonate. There are folks growing know-how that provides CO2 with mineral salts and creates a carbonate, which they promote as a product.”

Digitally generated image of line of solar panels, with schematic of carbon removal module in the foreground
An instance carbon seize farm, with the module highlighted within the foreground. Credit score: Southern Inexperienced Gasoline

The CO2 can be become methane (CH4), additionally referred to as pure gasoline, which might then be combusted once more. Gillespie says that is commercially attention-grabbing, as methane is extensively used as a gasoline already.

“You’ll be able to simply use all of the infrastructure, and doubtlessly export it as inexperienced LNG (liquefied pure gasoline),” he says.

“In fact, when that methane is consumed, it releases CO2. However that’s matched by the CO2 extracted. So it’s carbon impartial; it’s a closed loop.”

Gillespie says that whereas this particular utility isn’t carbon detrimental, it’s preferable to burning mined methane. “Swiss Re say, do your finest – that is an instance of substituting fossil fuels with renewables.”

Learn extra: We need a carbon-removal industry – should polluting companies pay for it?

SGG is at present engaged on an indication undertaking for its modules, and hopes to have a product to market by 2022. It’s at present engaged on methods to fabricate the modules at massive scale, in addition to tweaking elements comparable to power utilization and cycle time.

“The know-how is technically confirmed however not commercially confirmed,” says Gillespie.

“We’re unsure, at this stage, which of those markets are going to go – and the way rapidly, and the way massive. So now the main focus is getting the price of CO2 seize down under $100 [per tonne]. We expect a lot of markets will open up at that worth level.”

blank | Direct-air carbon seize tech raises queries about the place the CO2 will go


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