To end with all the polluting emissions created by industries, agricultural activities or by automobile combustion is an urgent challenge to meet the decarbonization goals. But it’s not the only one, nor the biggest one. The major obstacle is all the CO2 that will remain in the atmosphere even if the planet starts to work only with clean energy starting from tomorrow. This is a challenge that is very little talked about and that took Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering, to the microphones of TSF radio station for yet another interview.
Carbon Engineering, based in Canada, proposes to create power plants all around the globe to capture the air’s CO2 using renewable energies for then to store it on the ground or transforming it into synthetic liquid fuel by adding hydrogen. In 2015 Carbon Engineering managed to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for the first time and two years later, they made the first batch of carbon neutral fuel.
“The technology that we developed to directly capture CO2 from the atmosphere, allows not only to remove emissions of any kind or anywhere in the world, but also to clean all the legacy that accumulated since the Industrial Revolution” explains Steve Oldham.
There are many ways to mitigate the consequences of climate change, says the specialist. The transition towards clean energy, the control of emissions and the behavioral changes are decisive steps, but we we need to do more: “We are facing a hundred of gigatonnes size problem”
These are unbelievable values for those who are not specialized in the matter, but CEO of Carbon Engineering simplifies this puzzle in several parts: “The main point is the CO2 volume that we can find in the atmosphere, this is the problem that has specialists all over the world under alert”
To end with all emissions means to remove almost 40 gigatonnes that every year are launched into the atmosphere. This is the goal that the planet must reach in 2050, but the marathon will continue: “Actually, when we will reach that phase, we will have removed only one drop of paint from the olympic pool”
In order to restore the balance, we still need to remove the remaining 800 gigatonnes that we inherited from the past. That is why there is an urgency to develop a solution that can allow us to rapidly reach all the corners of the world.
If the technology already exists and was developed by Carbon Engineering, the same cannot be said about the business model, that needs to gain a planetary scale in order to be successful. “To reach that dimension, it’s not viable for a company to bear and operate this technology alone” recognizes Steve Oldham.
That is enough reason for the Canadian company to have already certified and licensed all its technology so that countries and private entities can use these solutions to solve their problems. The main idea is not very different to what happens today with garbage collection. But instead of just one municipal entity taking care of the collection, there are multiple departments spread around power plants that deal with their own pollution. That is the main goal Carbon Engineering wants to put on the table.
What to do with all the CO2 captured from the atmosphere is something that doesn’t represent a problem, guarantees the specialist. In the Permian Basin, in west Texas (USA), the Canadian company has sufficient space to bury 100 years of the planet’s emissions without danger of contamination or leaking.
It is actually like a return to the origins where carbon dioxide goes back underneath the earth. But it’s not necessarily its final destination. There are “innumerable applications” for this CO2, mainly the production of carbon neutral synthetic fuel that can be used in airplanes, trucks, boats and all kinds of heavy transportation.
Even as a “temporary solution”, while the electrification of the more than “one thousand million automobiles” that still circulate with fossil fuel is not done. “We need to remember that it won’t be from one day to the other that we will be able to implement renewable energies all over the planet” underlined Steve Oldham.
Steve Oldham, CEO of Canadian company Carbon Engineering, was the invited guest of Portugal Mobi Summit interview, conducted by Paulo Tavares.