As the Earth is warming up faster, our natural resources can bring the temperature down but devising methods to mitigate the excess amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other harmful gases -- is the right solution, say experts.
Although many techniques are being explored, the end goal remains the same - take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and isolate it in a form that is unable to cause global warming.
The most researched upon technique is bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Biomass is burned in power plants to produce electricity. In this process, carbon gets released into the atmosphere. What BECCS plans to do is collate the carbon, while the biomass is burned and then pump the same deep underground. The technique is already being tried out in industrial facilities. The three facilities based in Europe and the UK have managed to pull 550,000 tons of CO2 following its implementation.
Another method is Direct Air Capture (DAC), which, unlike flue gas capture systems that are effective only in collecting CO2 from factory smokestacks, is able to collect CO2 from other diverse and distributed sources. As half of the CO2 emissions result from distributed sources, DACs have a higher impact when it comes to negating climate change.
The way DACs usually work is by pushing contaminated air through a sorbent chemical, which binds with the carbon dioxide and lets other molecules pass. The carbon that is captured can then be unbound from the sorbent and used later in purified and concentrated form.
However, there is a catch. This method is capital intensive in nature and to carry it out extensively is not really feasible. Then again, this method can really be the solution we need. According to one professor Chris Field, direct air capture has the capability of becoming a significant industry, provided the technology improves and the cost of it declines. Professor Field is also the former co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC).
Therefore, the race is now on to bring down the costs and a company that is really making its presence known in this endeavour is Climeworks. This Swiss-based company is working a small DAC system in Hinwil, Switzerland. The town's incinerator does the job of providing the heat needed to propel its entire rig, while a fruit and vegetable company, based nearby, pays it $225 for every ton of purified CO2 that it buys for its greenhouses.
Climeworks co-founder Christoph Gebald said in an interview with Engadget, "With this plant, we can show costs of roughly $600 per tonne [of CO2], which is, of course, if we compare it to a market price, very high. But, if we compare it to studies which have been done previously, projecting the costs of direct air capture, it's a sensation. We see a factor [of] three cost reduction in the next 3-5 years, so a final cost of $200 per tonne. The long-term target price for what we do is clearly $100 per tonne of CO2."
Let's just hope that this technology really takes off, as we, the earthlings, are right now in dire need to get rid of that excess CO2.