Pale Blue Dot forms partnership to capture CO2 from air in the UK

Article by Adam Duckett

Carbon Engineering
Carbon Engineering's pilot plant direct air capture system in Canada. Shown are the air contactor (right) and calciner (left)

PALE Blue Dot has signed an agreement with Carbon Engineering to work together on deploying direct air capture (DAC) technology in the UK.

The partners aim for their collaboration to remove 1m t/y of CO2 from the atmosphere. One of the locations being considered to deploy direct air capture technology is North East Scotland, close to the Acorn CCS project being developed by Pale Blue Dot. In 2018, the Acorn project became the first project in the UK granted a licence by the UK’s Oil and Gas Authority to appraise transport and storage of CO2 offshore.

Acorn aims to be operational from late 2024 and the first DAC project could be operational two years later, the company said.

Carbon Engineering’s DAC process works by passing air over thin plastic surfaces that have potassium hydroxide solution flowing over them. This binds with CO2 from the air, forming a carbonate salt. The salt is then separated out using a pellet reactor. The pellets are then heated in a calciner to release the CO2 as gas for use or storage. The processed pellets are hydrated in a slaker and recycled back into the capture system.

The technology has been used to capture 1 t/d of CO2 at Carbon Engineering’s pilot plant at Squamish, Canada, since 2015, and convert the CO2 to fuel since 2017.

In 2018, Carbon Engineering published a detailed engineering and cost analysis of its DAC process in the journal Joule. It estimated that a 1m t/y DAC plant would have a levelised cost of US$94–232 for each ton of CO2 captured from the atmosphere.

Carbon Engineering CEO Steve Oldham said: “By capturing CO2 directly out of the air around us, DAC can eliminate any CO2 emission, regardless of where and when it occurred, at a known cost, capping the cost of emission reductions globally. This flexibility will be critical as the UK, and countries around the world, seek to achieve carbon neutrality while continuing to protect and grow their economies.”

In August, a partnership including oil firm Occidental was formed to deploy the DAC technology at commercial scale in the US. A FEED study will begin next year and plans are for a 1m t/y plant to begin operation in 2022.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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