Haze-shrouded Singapore
People are seen reflected in a window as they look out from an observatory room at the haze-shrouded shopping district of Orchard Road in Singapore September 24, 2015. The 3-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reached a high of 262 at 12pm (0400GMT) on Thursday. Reuters/Edgar Su

Canadian start-up, Carbon Engineering, has launched its pilot project to pull CO2 from thin air to convert it into pellets as an alternative to fossil-fuels. The company plans to extract carbon globally to make CO2-based synthetic fuels to tackle climate change.

To date, about 10 tonnes of CO2 have only been extracted by the test facility since its launch in June. However, Carbon Engineering plans to build a $200-million commercial plant in 2017, which would extract one million tonnes of carbon per day, equivalent of removing 100 cars off the road each year.

In 2018, the CO2-based synthetic fuels produced by the recycling plant are expected to be available on the market. The company said that the plant will produce “net zero emission fuels."

The “direct air capture plant” of Carbon Engineering will target emissions from sources like buildings, transportation and agriculture, the company chief executive, Adrian Corless, told the AFP. He added that it is the first time a technology that captures CO2 has been demonstrated with the potential to be scaled up, “large enough to be relevant from an environmental or climate point of view."

The CBC News reported that the future plant would be able to produce about 400 litres of gasoline or diesel every day through the same method of extracting carbon from the air. The plant would offer benefits of creating synthesised fuels that can be tailor-made for present petrol pumps, ships, planes and long-haulage trucks.

Corless said that there will be “no real limitations” for the technology to “displace all of the existing fossil-based transportation fuels." The project was funded by private investors, including billionaires Bill Gates.

The currently operating plant uses giant complex of fans to extract CO2 from the air, and recycles carbon by combining it with liquid hydrogen. The mixture can be converted into solid pellets of calcium carbonate or heated to produce pure carbon to be used as fuel, or stored for later use.

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