Twenty billion dollars is what we spend per year in order to capture CO2 from the atmosphere. The air became heavy when Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering stated that number to the virtual audience of the Portugal Mobi Summit. It’s a cost that cannot even be translated to daily life, but we can have an idea by understanding that it corresponds to 23% of the world’s GDP.
Those who are shocked by this fact, will have to prepare because things are getting worse, warns Oldham. As much as we clean the skies of the pollution originated by cars, industries or agriculture, we will always be running behind loss. “About 95% of the CO2 will remain in the atmosphere, no matter how much money we are spending.” Which corresponds to what we accumulated since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution at the end of the 19th century. And that is “the biggest challenge we have ahead of us”, stated the Canadian specialist.
And here is where Carbon Engineering’s role becomes important. In 2015, this Canadian company built a technology capable of extracting Carbon Dioxide directly from the atmosphere. The CO2 collected can be stored underground or converted in carbon neutral synthetic liquid fuel. The main asset of this solution is that it not only eliminates the emissions of the present, but also the ones from decades ago, deposited in the planet’s atmosphere.
This was the good news that Steve Oldham gave in order to ease the environment: “The cost of the removal of CO2 is reduced to five billion dollars. “It still a lot of money – he recognizes – but it represents a quarter of the 20 billion dollars spent today, adding to it ,that this is a permanent solution.
All that legacy can, with Carbon Engineering’s technology, return to the underground, stored without risk of leaking or contamination. At the Permian Basin in West Texas (USA), the Canadian company has sufficient space to store 100 years of the planet’s emissions, although this is not forcefully its final destination.
The CO2 removed from the atmosphere can then be applied in the production of carbon neutral synthetic fuel, that can be used in heavy transportation or even as a temporary alternative to fuel for cars until total electrification in mobility is reached: “We need a solution for the present, that is, we cannot wait until 2030 or 2050 because every year that passes, the removal becomes more difficult.”
That is why there is urgency in gaining scale. That is, to license and spread the technology throughout the planet so that companies and public entities can use it in the treatment of the pollution that each one of them produces. “We have a technology that uses already existing resources, just differently, and it can be installed all over the world”. Even in Portugal, Oldham says, guaranteeing that the country has the perfect location and the renewable energies to become a major European producer of carbon neutral synthetic fuel.
To remove CO2 emissions is a global challenge, therefore all the countries must know how to respond, warns the CEO of Carbon Engineering. “As in the past we managed to find solutions to fight diseases that spread through water – cholera, or typhoid – we will know have to find common answers to do the same with the air” stated.