Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

Carbon Capture Just Got A Whole Lot Cheaper

New technology from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is utterly revolutionary.

Will Lockett
Predict
Published in
4 min readApr 8, 2023

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Carbon capture has the potential to save our beautiful planet from the Promethean apocalypse. However, for the past few years, it has mostly been an expensive distraction from the changes we actually need to make to halt the devastation of climate change. Right now, carbon capture costs between $250 and $600 per tonne of carbon dioxide, which sounds reasonable until you realise we emit over 35 billion tonnes of the stuff every year! That means that going carbon-neutral via carbon capture will cost us at least $8.75 trillion, or about 40% of the US GDP. Needless to say, that is not a viable solution. However, scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have just created one of the cheapest forms of carbon capture ever, and it promises to spark a revolution.

Their first step is a rather obvious, previously attempted one. Rather than capturing carbon from the ambient air, the scientists have decided to capture it from the source, where it exists in far higher concentrations. This way, the capturing process is far more efficient and cost-effective.

But what makes this technique so special is the way it captures carbon and what the scientists do with it afterwards. Let me explain.

PNNL’s system is designed to take flue gas (waste emissions) from coal-fired plants, bio-mass plants, cement kilns, and steel plants. These emissions are passed through a patented solvent, which captures over 90 percent of the carbon dioxide. But it isn’t enough to only capture carbon, so this saturated solvent is then passed to a reactor, where it is converted into methanol . This most likely happens by mixing the carbon dioxide with renewable hydrogen with a catalyst in a simple chamber and then heating it; I have not been able to find confirmation on this process, though.

Now, methanol is one of the most in-demand chemicals on the planet. It is used in plastics, paints, car parts, and construction materials, and can even be used as a fuel or further reacted to create more complex fuels like gasoline or kerosene. And this is where this method of carbon capture could be truly genius. You see, rather than…

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Will Lockett
Predict

Independent journalist covering global politics, climate change and technology. Get articles early at www.planetearthandbeyond.co