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Pulling Carbon Dioxide Out of Thin Air
Now a Canadian company has developed a cleansing technology that may one day capture and remove some of this heat-trapping gas directly from the sky. And it is even possible that the gas could then be sold for industrial use. Carbon Engineering, formed in 2009 with $3.5 million from Bill Gates and others, created prototypes for parts of its cleanup system in 2011 and 2012 at its plant in Calgary, Alberta. The company, which recently closed a $3 million second round of financing, plans to build a complete pilot plant by the end of 2014 for capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, said David Keith, its president and a Harvard professor who has long been interested in climate issues....Should the cost of capturing carbon dioxide fall low enough, the gas would have many customers, he predicted....

Yet the cost of capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air has yet to be demonstrated, said Alain Goeppert, a senior research scientist at the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute at the University of Southern California. Dr. Goeppert recently reviewed the literature of air capture technology. “There is a lot of speculation of how much it will actually cost,” he said, with estimates from $20 a ton to as much as $2,000....

Dr. Keith says he thinks it may be possible to lower the cost of capture toward $100 a ton as the company grows. Carbon Engineering’s machines use a carbon-dioxide-absorbing solution of caustic soda to remove the gas from the air....The concentration of carbon dioxide scrubbed from the flue gases of coal- and gas-fired power plants is about 5 percent to 15 percent, higher than that in the air, where it is about 393 parts per million.

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