Air Carbon Capture Technology (Moving Forward)

Air Carbon Capture is both Cost Effective and Feasible

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Air Carbon Capture is the process used to draw CO2 from the Atmosphere and pump it into under ground chambers in order to decrease the CO2 density from the atmosphere to counteract the CO2 we pump into the atmosphere.

In 2009 numbers, 450 million metric tons of CO2 were produced per quarter or 1800 million metric tons of CO2 were produced that year from coal fire plants out of an approximate 5500 million metric tons of CO2 total. This represents 32.727 % of the total CO2 emissions.

There are many different plans for air carbon capture and directly from power plant emissions. On a first look it seems that capturing it directly from power plants and shipping it to the location where it’s pumped underground for sequestration is cheaper. The plans for sequestration systems has never included a complete end to end cost study.  It is very expensive to ship CO2, however due to higher concentrations in the atmosphere from the coal plant localized capture technology it becomes more efficient to capture it locally. While researching it, I came across two separate plans for air capture that I feel warrant a combined look at.

The First Plan- Air Carbon Capture Convection Towers

The first plan, I found  does not suggest a material to absorb the CO2, instead it goes through and describes convection towers  that could be used to create an air flow that containing air level CO2 emissions for a $9 million dollar cost that would also generate a small amount of electricity at the same time 3-4 MW (not enough to power the whole cycle but probably enough to run the water pumps necessary to generate the temperature gradient required to run one of the many towers that would be needed.)

The cost of the collection tower, even if it exceeded the $9 million implied by a cost of $3,000/kW for its electricity generating cousin, would still be extremely cheap compared to the cost of the coal fired power plant…

Air Carbon Capture Convection Tower

Air Carbon Capture Convection Tower that would be 300 Meters tall

The tower produces 9,500 tons of CO2 in the air flow per day.  In years that’s 3,467,500 tons of CO2 laden air.  “With a cost of less than 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity per ton of carbon dioxide removed.

Some more calculations:  To remove all the CO2 from the air flow of one tower would require 346,750,000 KW-hours of electricity. If the scrubbing material can remove 20 tons of CO2 per single m2 of material it would mean that we would need 638.75 m2 of material to scrub all the CO2 that would pass through one of these towers which measure 115 m at the top and 300 meters high and a base 56.4189883 m2 at the bottom. The limiting space factor is the 638.75 m2 of material or 25.2735 m x 25.2735 m of material for absorption + the area of the base + the base 56.4189883 m2 or 695.16489883 M2 or 26.465979m x 26.465979 m or which is about  .17297 acres of land + the space required to run the heat engine associated and the power source (I would suggest a self-contained and LFTR Reactor could be buried on site and would provide the power source for a long time.  It would also make for the ability for one to place these capture units in remote places, preferably in desert locations where convection has the greatest efficiency. The other option would be solar with night time storage, since deserts are ideal for this energy production. )  Since air flow and not air exposure is needed the “infrastructure” that makes it tick, the air capture systems, could be built on top of the absorption material beds if space becomes a big issue.

Space is much less likely in desert locations however lots of these have an environmental impact of their own but the problem might be in getting cooling water to the location as well as the material to build these air absorption units. I am not sure but I think these described systems are a closed unit, therefore it’s a one-time shipping cost ( A complete end to end cost study would have to account for the  cost of shipping and transporting of these units as part of the capital cost.) the additional benefit of an air capture system is that in the long run these systems can be used to draw down the CO2 levels in the atmosphere to pre-industrial levels. They also help remove the CO2 from the atmosphere that is caused by the breakdown of methane gas. Something the type that runs on power plants can’t do. This is a big fact I don’t see mentioned anywhere.  Given the following fact, “The Arctic contains vast reserves of methane stored as methane hydrate, a gel-like substance formed by methane molecules trapped in frozen water. The methane hydrate deposits are estimated at between 1,000 and 10,000 Giga-tons (109 tons) of CO₂-equivalents as methane, much of which is present in the shallow sediments of the extensive Arctic shelves. This amount of greenhouse gas is several times the total CO₂ release since the industrial revolution.”

Scientists’ warn us that we are causing a temperature rise feedback loop which will serve to further increase the release of methane that will further the rise of temperature.

Indeed some of the more extreme scientists have gone so far to warn us that we are triggering a loop that might very well lead to a great extinction event where our “atmosphere will become like Venus’s atmosphere, at a 190 degree warmer temperature”.

This leads me to a second technology which has been demonstrated to capture CO2 from the atmosphere. It could be adapted to use the convection from the convection towers.

“Keith and his team showed they could capture CO2 directly from the air with less than 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity per ton of carbon dioxide. Their custom-built tower was able to air carbon capture the equivalent of about 20 tons per year of CO2 on a single square meter of scrubbing material – the average amount of emissions that one person produces each year in the North American-wide economy.”

Since each of these air carbon capture systems is capable of removing 3,467,500 tons of CO2 laden air per year and if the following facts listed below are true, then to remove just what we have added it would require that we build 7507 of these plants to break even on a world wide scale.  

Humans currently are pumping roughly 30 billion tons (30,000,000,000 tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere from fossil fuel sources each year. At this rate it is building up faster than the planet can reabsorb it, so the consumption is not considered sustainable.

or this figure ”So there is a total of 796 gigatons of CO2 entering the atmosphere annually, of which 3.27% originates from human beings. And 43% of that is absorbed. Now you can see how science proves that global warming results solely from human CO2 emissions. “ We multiply that 796 figure times 109to get the number of tons 796,000,000,000 and 3.27% is created by humans that leads us to the figure 26,029,200,000 billion tons which is close to the other figure of 30 billion tons.

Unfortunately I have not found a “cost” figure associated with this air carbon capture method. So I am lead to another company called globalthermostat. They don’t say what there cost efficient process for air carbon capture is either…hmmm a little frustrating. In fact the only cost I can find associated with these processes is somewhere around $100/ton of CO2.  So assuming a $100/ton figure which we drew from the Carbon Engineering, a Calgary, Aberta firm founded in 2009 with money from Bill Gates we would end up with a cost 2,602,920,000,000 dollars or 2.602 Trillion for worldwide air carbon capture . With gross world product (GWP) of 79.39 trillion we have a 3.277% cost of Gross Worldwide Product (GWP) for implementing Air Carbon Capture. That’s large but not unmanageable although the brunt of the cost would have to be absorbed by the countries listed in descending order of responsibility. Don’t forget the costs could be spread over ten years, since the Air Carbon Capture infrastructure would take some time to build. It would also help boost the economy at the same time. Of course if we could find a good use for all that captured CO2, then air carbon capture’s economics might improve further but think this is just a flight of fancy. Pumping CO2 into the ground is not without it’s potential dangers. Massive rapid release of CO2 could cause a catastrophic event. In any case, I think that’s a topic for a future article! Here is the list of countries in order of reponsibility for the costs of air carbon capture based on their percentage of the CO2 output.

Air Carbon capture technology could be and should be combined with an effort to eliminate our CO2 output. My particular suggestion is to combine air carbon capture with a plan to convert coal fire plants to LFTR nuclear reactors.

In the USA we would end up adding the .48 trillion to the 1.99 trillion required to convert the coal plants to LFTR Nuclear reactors bringing the US responsibility to 2.47 Trillion. It would end up reducing the US emissions by the 32.727 % reduced from the converted coal plants plus the remaining 67.273% would be counterbalanced by the carbon sequestration giving us a negative foot print. That is -32.767% emissions.  Where the total CO2 emissions baseline in the USA is 4,755,534,840 tons or 4.756 billon. Which at a -32.767% rate of production would give us minus 1,558,246,101 tons or 1.6 billion tons which works at reducing the amount accrued since the industrial revolution, hopefully with the cooperation of the world would allow us to avoid the worst of the cataclysmic release of methane that is now beginning to seeping out of the Arctic and oceans around the world.

We can implement air carbon capture for a price that the world can afford. It is possible to even pay for the air carbon capture technology with the method I have outlined in the article, “World Plastic Waste Recovery“.