New technologies to ‘suck CO2 from the air’ to be tested in Britain

·3-min read
Rushhour on the M56 motorway near Helsby, Cheshire, UK at dusk.
Could sucking CO2 from the air help Britain to hit its goal of 'net zero' emissions? (Getty)

The government is to invest millions in "greenhouse gas removal" projects that suck CO2 and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Some of the projects involve "re-wetting" peat bogs to help them absorb CO2, while others involve using industrial technology to "capture" CO2 from the air.

The technologies under investigation include Direct Air Capture (DAC), which takes greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and stores it underground. 

Such "carbon capture" technologies can be used to make polluting industries carbon-neutral – or even carbon-negative. 

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The £166.5m of investment announced on Monday included over £250,000 for a DAC technology project led by Storegga, a subsidiary of Pale Blue Dot Energy.

It will research and develop an alternative to using natural gas to power the DAC plant's calciner – a kiln that operates at high temperatures, and a key step in the process. 

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This will enable the system to run on clean energy only, eliminating the current requirement to co-capture the carbon dioxide from natural gas used in the systems.

Professor Cameron Hepburn of the University of Oxford, who is involved in the trials, told The Guardian: “This is seriously exciting and pretty much world leading.

“Nobody really wants to be in the situation of having to suck so much CO2 from the atmosphere. But that’s where we are – we’ve delayed for too long.”

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In total, 24 projects across England and Wales will receive up to £250,000 to fund new ways of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and store them safely

A further five projects will receive up to £4.5m each to investigate the viability of adopting greenhouse gas removal methods at scale.

Other projects will explore "re-wetting" peatlands to absorb as much greenhouse gas as possible.

The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology will receive almost £4.5m to manage and restore peatlands to maximise their greenhouse gas removal potential at farmland near Doncaster and at upland sites in the South Pennines and in Pwllpeiran, West Wales. 

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Peatlands store more carbon than any other ecosystem on land, but as a result of human disturbance they are rapidly losing this carbon to the atmosphere. 

This project will recreate, and where possible enhance, the environmental conditions that lead to peat formation, and to re-establish a secure long-term carbon store in the landscape.

Energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “We are determined to tackle climate change and make it win-win for both our planet and our economy. 

“Today’s major cash boost – targeted at our most polluting industries – will encourage the rapid development of the technologies we need to reign in our emissions and transition to a green economy, one that reduces costs for business, boosts investment and create jobs.”

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