The Orca project in Iceland by Climeworks is sucking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Scientists are working out a way to make this process more efficient. Scientists came up with a technology that will suck up carbon dioxide and convert it into baking soda to store in oceans.
Orca project in Iceland is one of the largest direct air removal facilities as per the company Climeworks. The plant can capture up to 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is equivalent to carbon emission by around 800 cars over a year. In the words of Arup SenGupta, Professor at Lehigh University and study author, “The new technique laid down in the study can help tackle those problems.”
According to the study published in Journal Sciences, the author claims that this technology could be 3 times more efficient than current technology of carbon capturing. At the moment tackling the climate crisis means drastically reducing burning of fossil fuels which is the main reason behind emission of planet-heating gases.
This technology aims at capturing carbon pollution directly at the source which is from cement or steel plants. Another method on which the study focuses is direct air capture. It includes pulling off carbon dioxide pollution from the atmosphere directly, then storing it and often injecting it into the ground.
Carbon dioxide is a potent planet heating gas, but its concentrations are very small making about 0.04% of air only. This factor makes it difficult to remove carbon dioxide directly from air, a challenging process and this is the only drawback with direct air capture methods.
Professor Sen Gupta said, “It’s a significant hurdle.” It is due to this fact that the biggest facilities are only able to remove small amounts of carbon, but it costs several hundred dollars to remove each ton of carbon.
To modify the absorbent material the team used copper and as a result the end product is, in the words of Professor Sengupta, “Which can remove CO2 from the atmosphere at ultra-dilute concentration at a capacity which is two to three times greater than existing absorbents. This material can be produced easily and cheaply and would help drive down the costs of direct air capture.”
After the CO2 is captured, it is then converted into sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) with the use of seawater, and then it is released back into ocean in small concentrations.
Professor Sen Gupta said, “The oceans are infinite sinks. If you put all the CO2 from the atmosphere, emitted every day – or every year – into the ocean, the increase in concentration would be very, very minor.” It is due to this fact that the ideal location for direct air capture plant is offshore, so they have access to abundant seawater for carrying out the process.
Professor of Carbon Capture and Storage at the University of Edinburgh, Stuart Haszeldine said, “The chemistry was novel and elegant. The process is a modification of one we already know, which is easier to understand, scale-up and develop than something totally new. But there may be regulatory hurdles to surmount. Disposing of large tonnages of sodium bicarbonate in the ocean could be legally defined as ‘dumping,’ which is banned by international treaties.”
Despite the point of view presented by Professor Sen Gupta, others including Haszeldine are concerned about the negative impacts of this process on the oceans as they are already under pressure from rapid climatic changes, pollution, and other human activities.
Professor of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at the University of Sheffield, Peter Styring said, “Unless you’ve got a full eco-toxic study, then you don’t know what it’s going to do, even at small concentrations.”
Since the direct air capture technology remains inefficient and expensive, Professor Styring added, “This is a big scale problem. Why would you capture from the atmosphere when you’ve got so much coming out of power stations and industrial plants?” Professor Styring further said, “It just makes sense to go for the high concentrations first.”
Also, scientists are concerned that a focus on technology to remove carbon from air directly may distract policies focused on reducing the burning of fossil fuels or even worse that polluters may consider it acceptable to emit carbon into atmosphere as the technology is going to remove it. Scientists came up with a technology that will suck up carbon dioxide and convert it into baking soda to store in oceans.
Despite this, governments and international bodies are constantly pushing to scale up direct air capture technology. Professor Haszeldine said, “More research will be needed to understand how the method works at scale. But it’s promising the world needs lots of this type of discovery.”
In the words of Professor SenGupta, “The technology is ready to be taken out of the lab and trialed. This is the time to go forward and do something in maybe two or three different places around the world. Let other people get involved, find faults, improve on it, and then proceed accordingly.”