Clearing the air of CO2; new carbon capture project launched in Squamish

WATCH: The province has put up hundreds of thousands of dollars to help fund a Squamish project that looks to turn greenhouse gases into fuel. Ted Chernecki reports.

The provincial government is providing $435,000 in support of Carbon Engineering’s (CE) carbon capture pilot project that converts CO2 into synthetic fuel.

CE’s air purification and synthetic fuel-producing technology could revolutionize the fight against climate change and turn back the clock on emission levels.

The company’s technology essentially ‘scrubs’ out CO2 from the air by absorbing the carbon dioxide in a liquid solution and eventually recycling it into pellets. The pellets release pure carbon when heated.

The pilot plant was launched earlier this year and is presently working to purify one to two tonnes of air daily. CE’s Business and Development Manager Geoff Holmes says the project was launched to prove the efficiency of the technology.

“We’re designing technology to capture industrial-scale quantities of CO2 from the air. Eventual plants that we build could be as large as 1,000,000 tonnes per year capacity at one plant. That’s a pretty cool proposition because that’s the equivalent of taking 250,000 cars off the road,” he says.

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CE also plans to convert captured carbon into synthetic diesel or gasoline. In a press release, the Ministry of Energy and Mines explains the process.

Electricity would be used to capture CO2 directly from the air, and to split water and manufacture hydrogen. The two components would then be reacted to yield diesel or gasoline. When this synthetic fuel is burned in a car, truck or bus it would simply return the CO2 back to the atmosphere, powering transportation in a way that is fully carbon-neutral.

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The Ministry also says BC Transit has considered testing the synthetic diesel fuel in their fleet in Squamish.

Holmes says CE’s technology would be effective anywhere, but the Squamish site was chosen partly because it was a former chemical facility, and some of the existing infrastructure was able to be reused.

“There’s technical expertise in the lower mainland that’s really quite relevant to some of the equipment we’ve built in our plant,” Holmes says. “The community here is supportive of clean energy and innovation.”

CE’s technology has caught the attention of Bill Gates and Murray Edwards, who have both invested in the project.