An artist’s rendering of an “air extraction” prototype being developed
by Global Research Technologies and Klaus Lackner from Columbia

First Successful Demonstration of Carbon Dioxide Air Capture
Technology Achieved by Columbia University Scientist and Private
posted 04/24/07

Global Research Technologies, LLC (GRT), a technology research and
development company, and Klaus Lackner from Columbia University have
achieved the successful demonstration of a bold new technology to
capture carbon from the air. The “air extraction” prototype has
successfully demonstrated that indeed carbon dioxide (CO2) can be
captured from the atmosphere. This is GRT’s first step toward a
commercially viable air capture device.

This technology debuts at a critical juncture where recent findings of
an esteemed array of global experts — including former Vice President
Al Gore, Sir Nicholas Stern, and the eminent scientists and
practitioners serving on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
— have concluded that man-made climate change is indeed upon us. One
of the most critical challenges we face is the dramatically increasing
and completely unprecedented level of carbon dioxide in the earth’s
atmosphere. The air extraction device is one critical solution to help
the world reduce dangerous amounts of CO2 in the air.

The carbon capture technology was developed by GRT and Klaus S.
Lackner, a professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The Tucson-based
technology company began development of the device in 2004 and has
recently successfully demonstrated its efficacy. The air extraction
device, in which sorbents capture carbon dioxide molecules from free-
flowing air and release those molecules as a pure stream of carbon
dioxide for sequestration, has met a wide range of performance
standards in the GRT research facility.

“This is an exciting step toward making carbon capture and
sequestration a viable technology,” said Lackner. “I have long
believed science and industry have the technological capability to
design systems that will capture greenhouse gases and allow us to
transition to energies of the future over the long term.”

The GRT’s demonstration could have far-reaching consequences for the
battle to reduce greenhouse gas levels. Unlike other techniques, such
as carbon capture and storage from power plants, air extraction would
allow reductions to take place irrespective of where carbon emissions
occur, enabling active management of global atmospheric carbon dioxide
levels. The technology shows, for the first time, that carbon dioxide
emissions from vehicles on the streets of Bangkok could be removed
from the atmosphere by devices located in Iceland. This could present
a solution to three problems that until now have posed intractable
obstacles for advocates of greenhouse gas reduction: how to deal with
the millions of vehicles that together represent over 20 percent of
global CO2 emissions, how to manage the emissions from existing
infrastructure, and how to connect the sources of carbon to the sites
of carbon disposal.

“This significant achievement holds incredible promise in the fight
against climate change,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of The Earth
Institute, “and thanks to the ingenuity of GRT and Klaus Lackner, the
world may, sooner rather than later, have an important tool in this

A device with an opening of one square meter can extract about 10 tons
of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. If a single device
were to measure 10 meters by 10 meters it could extract 1,000 tons
each year. On this scale, one million devices would be required to
remove one billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
According to the U.K. Treasury’s Stern Review on climate change, the
world will need to reduce carbon emissions by 11 billion tons by 2025
in order to maintain a concentration of carbon dioxide at twice pre-
industrial levels.

Experts have long highlighted the potential of air extraction, arguing
that it could have a vastly greater impact than the renewable energy
sources that currently operate on a small scale. To date, however, the
transport sector has resisted many carbon-reducing technologies.
Although carbon capture is possible at power plants through flue-gas
scrubbing, designing millions of cars, trucks, and trains to capture
CO2 from their exhaust streams is simply not practical. Hauling a
“trailer” behind every passenger car to collect exhaust emissions
would exacerbate traffic congestion, reduce gasoline mileage and
increase fuel consumption. Simply put, CO2 emissions from the
transportation sector are going to end up in the atmosphere and can
only be removed from the atmosphere with a device like the one GRT has

Air capture devices are small and require much less land area than the
wind mills that would be needed to offset an equal amount of CO2
emission. Indeed, if the CO2 carried by the air streams used to drive
wind mills were to be captured, then on an energy equivalent basis,
the CO2 capture would reduce emissions hundred times more than a wind
mill of equal sweep area. Like wind turbines, the GRT devices would be
deployed in coordinated formations, but would extract the air’s carbon
dioxide, not its kinetic energy.

A major challenge facing scientists working to extract and sequester
carbon from the atmosphere has been the fact that it is too expensive
to re-outfit many of the world’s existing power plants to make them
more eco-friendly. In general, building new technologies is easier and
cheaper than adding retrofits to existing infrastructure. Another
exciting benefit of the GRT device is that it faces down this
challenge by capturing the emissions from existing power plants
without imposing retrofit costs.

Air capture offers a third important benefit. The CO2 capture device
can be located at the point of CO2 end-use or sequestration,
eliminating the current need to match CO2 sources with sinks. For
example, the CO2 originating from all those vehicles in Bangkok can be
captured in an oil field in Alberta, Canada, where it could be used on-
site for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations or it could be
captured in South Africa to feed a growing demand in that country for
feed stocks for petrochemical production. If the goal is to sequester
a given quantity of CO2 in a specific geological formation, the air
capture system could be located at that physical location. Within the
United States, formations in Ohio, Oklahoma and Michigan, among other
sites, appear to hold promise for long-term CO2 storage underground.
Air extraction could also offer a new window in negotiations between
developed and developing countries over how to deploy carbon reducing

Going forward, GRT plans to begin demonstrating its air capture system
on a larger scale. Extensive deployment of the GRT air capture system
makes it possible to envision an actual reduction of CO2 levels in the
atmosphere, perhaps even to pre-industrial levels. That is the
exciting promise of air capture and precisely what has just been
demonstrated by GRT.

GRT’s Future Commercial Air-Capture Products Will Address CO2 Market
Needs in Sectors Ranging From Agriculture to Energy

August 11, 2007

Tucson, AZ — Global Research Technologies, LLC (GRT) is continuing to
refine ACCESS(tm), its air-capture technology product named for the
initials in the phrase “Atmospheric Carbon CapturE SystemS.” GRT’s
proof-of-concept successes have established that the firm is on its
way to designing and building patented air-capture technology that
will eventually enable the removal of millions of tons of CO2 a day
from the earth’s atmosphere. GRT is also refining its long-term
business model and working to integrate large numbers of future ACCESS
units into markets that produce and use CO2. GRT is a research and
development company dedicated to the commercialization of products and
processes with a positive energy and environmental impact.

ACCESS units have this advantage: they can be located anywhere — far
from CO2-emitting smokestacks and far from populated and scenic areas.
Yet if desired, they can also be located adjacent to end-use markets.
Full-scale models of future commercial ACCESS units will be
approximately the size of shipping containers. Each will be able to
remove a ton of CO2 a day. Smaller-scale versions of ACCESS units are
envisioned for use by end-users requiring less CO2 captured for their
processes or products.

GRT President Allen Wright notes, “ACCESS units will be beneficial in
two ways. First, ACCESS will take the CO2 out of the atmosphere where
the buildup is causing ever more severe climate change problems.
Second, we will turn around and provide that captured CO2 to end-user
markets. This will ultimately include permanent carbon sequestration.
I’m pleased and proud that we will be able to fulfill our charge to
the Gary Comer Foundation, which funded our start-up.”

GRT is actively working to integrate ACCESS units within industries
that will produce environmental benefits from their use of captured
CO2. For example, today’s Indoor Agriculture (greenhouse) sector
requires special natural gas and propane generators to produce CO2. In
the future, these same facilities can install ACCESS units to locally
capture CO2, or purchase ACCESS-generated CO2, for use in greenhouses
around the world.

The oil industry is another industry that is a potential end-user of
ACCESS units. The process of injecting CO2 into oil fields, forcing
trapped petroleum to the surface where it can be pumped out, is called
Enhanced Oil Recovery, or EOR. The Department of Energy estimates that
CO2-based technologies can help recover 89 billion barrels of
additional oil on the United States continent. The ability to extract
those stranded reserves may help ease our dependence on foreign oil.

Klaus Lackner, Ph.D., one of the visionaries behind the GRT system’s
design and a member in the company, explained, “Carbon-based fuels can
be used with minimal climate consequences provided the CO2 they
produce when combusted is removed from the atmosphere. GRT’s ACCESS
will make it possible to rely on fossil fuels in the transportation
sectors without increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Gary Comer profile: An Entrepreneur Does Climate Science
from Science Magazine
BY Richard A. Kerr  /  February 24, 2006

Lands’ End founder Gary Comer–former king of the clothing catalogs–
has turned a high-Arctic epiphany into millions for no-strings funding
of research into abrupt climate change. But the transforming funding
is about to end Gary Comer knew something wasn’t right. John Franklin
and 128 companions had famously tackled the Northwest Passage in 1845,
and none of them returned. Roald Amundsen finally conquered the
passage in 1906; it took him 3 years. Yet in the summer of 2001, Comer
was motoring unscathed through open Arctic waters that should have
been ice-clogged. He made the transit over the top of North America in
just 19 days. “We were able to do it, and so many people had failed,”
he says. “Something had happened.”

It was global warming, Comer decided. Months later, he began to work
on the problem of sudden changes in his beloved Arctic. ” I had some
cash,” he recalls, having the day before cleared about $1 billion
selling his Lands’ End catalog business. And his sense of urgency had
been sharpened by a recent diagnosis of prostate cancer. So he told a
Nobel-laureate geochemist, ” I’d like to do something that would be
helpful” about global warming.

Thus began Comer’s freewheeling research enterprise targeting
climate’s propensity for sudden, potentially debilitating shifts. He
hoped to awaken the American public to the threat of global warming.
His approach was unconventional but not so surprising coming from a
world-class sailor, empire builder, and former ad man: Identify a few
top-notch senior scientists; give them money, unsolicited, to support
up-and-coming young scientists; fund fieldwork nobody else would
touch; and then–less predictably–jump in and enjoy the science.

Tens of millions of dollars later, Comer has made an impression. ” He
changed the field” of abrupt climate change, says glacial geologist
George Denton of the University of Maine, Orono. And ” he changed my
life. He’s something very special. This guy is thinking about the
world; he thinks something has to be done.” Comer hopes that money
well spent on a key climate unknown will prompt the federal government
to take up the burden. ” Who needs to go to the moon?” he asks. ” Take
care of Earth.”

From dinghy to deep sea

Comer’s entrepreneurial career as well as his foray into science
funding really began on Lake Michigan. Born to a working-class family
and raised on the South Side of Chicago, he began sailing small boats
off Chicago at age 14. By age 30, Comer had sailed his 7-meter Star
Class Turmoil to second place in the world championships. At the same
time, he was having second thoughts about his 10-year advertising
career as a copywriter at Young & Rubicam, a job he had approached
through sailing friends. So he started a sailing-gear supply company,
Lands’End Yacht Stores (misplacing the apostrophe by typo), which
morphed into the huge catalog and Web apparel business of Lands’End

Far traveler. Comer’s Turmoil has carried scientists to Greenland’s
glacier-grooved coast to unravel climate history.

The Turmoil boats grew as well, and lost their sails, until Comer was
motoring to remote coasts in a 46-meter Turmoil that ” from the
outside looks like a fishing vessel,” as one guest puts it, ” and from
the inside like The Four Seasons.” On it, he traveled more than a
quarter-million kilometers, much of it to high latitudes. ” My
lifelong fascination with the Arctic and things Arctic started [when]
I became obsessed with news of the plane crash that took the lives of
pilot Wiley Post and humorist Will Rogers” near Bar row, Alaska, he
wrote in a journal. ” I was 10. ? It was the beginning of my
fascination with airplanes, pilots, Eskimos, igloos, and life in the
bitter cold. ? The sheer strangeness of it all–I was amazed.”

Charles Hollister, a deep-sea sedimentologist, was the first to begin
turning Comer’s adventurous spirit toward science. By the late 1990s,
Hollister, a longtime Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)
researcher, had become an administrator and fundraiser there. What
better person to interest in oceanography than this well-heeled
adventurer of the sea? Hollister contacted Comer and got an invitation
to cruise the Kurile Islands northeast of Japan with Comer on Turmoil.
Hollister died in 1999 in a fall while hiking, but the new WHOI
director of development, Daniel Stuermer, soon invited Comer on a
different sort of ocean expedition: heading down in the deep
submersible Alvin to the subsea mountain range of the East Pacific

The tipping point

” Gary got excited,” says Stuermer. But Comer had not yet made up his
mind to spend major amounts of money on anybody’s science. That came
after his ” over-the-top cruise.” On returning from the Northwest
Passage, he called Stuermer. ” I’m really worried,” Stuermer recalls
him saying. ” I shouldn’t have been able to do that. Global warming is
really a problem for the world. What are we going to do about it?”
That began Comer’s career in funding climate change research.

” There wasn’t any plan,” Comer concedes. Instead, he picked up ”
little threads” that presented themselves. There was, however, a new
motivation. In December 2001, he learned he had advanced prostate
cancer. That ” made me realize whatever I was going to do, it was time
to do it,” he says. And ” it’s important to let other people know
there are things you can do with money that are very satisfying and

One thread came in conversation with a Chicago friend in early 2002.
When global warming came up, the friend mentioned a scientist–the
friend’s ex-wife’s cousin’s husband–who would share Comer’s
interests. So Comer went to visit the laboratory of F. Sherwood
Rowland, an atmospheric chemist at the University of California,
Irvine, who had won the 1995 Nobel Prize for his role in pinning ozone
losses on chlorofluorocarbons and was now studying methane, a powerful
greenhouse gas.

That summer, Comer sent his jet to pick up Rowland and his wife near
Irvine. They were to meet him on Turmoil in Victoria, British
Columbia. Comer arrived late but exuberant. He had just sold Lands’
End to Sears for $1.9 billion, clearing about $1 billion cash on the
deal. So he popped the question: ” If I wanted to put $1 million into
climate change,” Rowland recalls him saying, ” what should I do?”

Rowland had a ready answer that set the core structure of Comer’s
funding program: Comer should support 10 graduate and postdoctoral
fellowships at $50,000 per year for 2 years. Rowland offered to take
one fellow and choose researchers to handle the rest. Comer liked the
idea, but he thought it called for ” not enough money, too many
people.” Instead, he proposed five fellowships at $100,000 per year to
run for 3 years–overhead-free, he would insist.

On to abruptness

Comer wasn’t finished. He had ” started out wanting to bring the
climate-change problem to public attention,” he says. He intended to
be in the thick of climate research. And for that, it seemed, he
needed geochemist Wallace Broecker. Comer kept coming across
Broecker’s name, whether from Stuermer, an environmentally connected
friend, or his own reading. A longtime researcher at Lamont-Doherty
Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, Broecker was obviously the
point man on nasty surprises that might be lurking in the looming
greenhouse (Science, 10 July 1998, p. 156 ). Comer wrote Broecker a
letter about his disturbing trip through the Northwest Passage, but
Broecker was too busy teaching near the end of the semester to go see
Comer at his homes in Waukesha, Wisconsin, or Chicago. So Comer came
to Broecker.

Within a few minutes of meeting Broecker in his hotel’s coffee shop,
Comer popped his question again: ” Wally, I want to help you,”
Broecker recalls him saying. ” What can I do for you?” Rowland’s
fellowship idea sounded good to Broecker, especially with a focus on
abrupt climate change. This was the climate system’s big unknown,
Broecker argued. Sudden shifts in climate had rattled the hemisphere
if not the globe not so long ago, and the growing greenhouse could
conceivably trigger a recurrence. Broecker was worried in particular
about the heat-carrying ocean conveyor that warms the far northern
Atlantic. If the greenhouse shut it down, as something did repeatedly
more than 10,000 years ago, there could be hell to pay.

” I became pretty tight with Wally,” Comer says. ” I’ve always had an
interest in science, though it was nothing I studied in school. Wally
was a great inspiration; he has a knack for explaining things. He came
up with really interesting things to do. His interests became my
interests.” Broecker returns the compliments. ” He’s really made a
difference to me,” he says. ” It’s been much, much more than the
money. He caught me at a time when I was thinking of retiring. He
inspired me and gave me a mission.”

The Comer way

Once he made his initial contacts with the scientific community, Comer
grew his funding much as he grew his business. He rooted out good
people and let them loose, while keeping a close eye on how they did.
” He’s very straightforward, very direct,” says Stuermer. ” If you’re
satisfying him, you know. If not, you know that.” Stuermer’s marching
orders were simple: ” Do things that are important but won’t be done
by government,” he recalls. ” Choose people Comer would like–that is,
respect and admire.” And finally, Comer said, ” Dan, I’m letting you
guide me here; don’t [mess] up.”

No one has messed up so far. Comer initially gave $1 million to WHOI’s
Climate Institute, followed by an unrestricted $5 million gift to
WHOI, some of which went to climate-related research. He expanded his
centerpiece, the Comer Fellows, to 31 ” mentors” running two fellows
each over 5 years. The fellows program will end 2 years from now, if
all the pending renewals go through as expected, for a total of about
$6 million. Most of the mentors were chosen by Rowland and Broecker
and some more after Broecker brought in glaciologist Richard Alley of
Pennsylvania State University in State College to form a troika of
overseers. ” It’s quick funds,” says Comer. ” We don’t have a peer-
review system.” His motto: ” Keep it simple.” In addition, Comer has
set aside $5 million to be distributed with advice from the troika.
Unsolicited proposals are not considered.

Comer has also picked up the annual tab of about $50,000 to support
the ” Changelings,” a small group of abrupt-climate-change specialists
who periodically gather with invited experts to ponder special
problems. After starting the Changelings in the mid-1990s, the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) dropped the
funding in a cost-cutting move. And Comer is covering $18 million of
the $40 million needed to replace Lamont’s 50-year-old ” Quonset hut”
of a geochemistry building, where Broecker has spent all 53 years of
his career. The move is reminiscent of Comer’s 2001 $21 million
contribution to help build a children’s hospital for the University of
Chicago. Indeed, his climate contributions are in much the same spirit
as the several million he has contributed over a few years to
stabilize schools and the community in his childhood inner-city
neighborhood of Chicago.

Big fish, smallish pond

Millions may be small potatoes in biomedicine, but in a subspecialty
of climate change, it’s real money. The pace of Comer’s spending on
research over 6 years will equal or exceed that of NOAA funding
specified for abrupt climate change. And that’s about the only U.S.
public funding directed toward that area. Comer’s contribution is ” a
very large and beneficial infusion,” says Alley. ” There’s an immense
amount of really good science. The total output of the field is much
greater than it would have been otherwise.”

Six million dollars’worth of cheap, productive postgraduate labor is
in fact buying a good deal of science. For example, one of the first
people Rowland contacted was geochemist Jeffrey Severinghaus of the
Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California. The call
came out of the blue: ” This is not a contest. You’ve already won.”
He’d won two fellows, no strings attached. ” Gary clearly has an
interest in abrupt climate change,” says Severinghaus, ” but there’s
been no heavy-handed direction.”

One of Severinghaus’s fellows showed that carbon dioxide was not the
ultimate driver of the last deglaciation; that work was published in
Science in 2003. A second fellow refined Severinghaus’s geochemical ”
thermometer,” which used air trapped in ice cores to document
Greenland’s stunningly abrupt 10°C temperature drops during the last
ice age.

” It’s a very effective way of funding science,” says climate modeler
Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
in Germany, another mentor. At first, his offer from Rowland ” read
like a Nigerian e-mail scam,” he says. He found it ” wonderful to be
able to think freely, ? follow scientific instincts, and explore
things” without all the usual bureaucracy.

Comer has also taken researchers on four field trips to high
latitudes. Two expeditions were to survey areas of Canada, in part
using Comer’s 12-seat jet, eight-seat Caravan prop plane, and a
chartered helicopter. There researchers–including Comer, Broecker,
and Denton–found signs that the trigger for an abrupt cooling 13,000
years ago called the Younger Dryas may not have been a gush of glacial
meltwater, as many had thought, because the meltwater was still
blocked by ice then.

Two other field trips took Turmoil to southern Greenland and into
Scoresby Sund on the east-central coast to unravel the glacial history
of the Younger Dryas. Working off of Turmoil and reconnoitering in
Comer’s float plane or helicopter, Denton, Alley, and others studied
the ridges of debris deposited by glaciers at their maximum extent,
when summers were coldest. Drawing on that fieldwork, Denton, Alley,
Comer, and Broecker reported last year that a broad expanse of North
Atlantic ice cover seems to have been key to a brutally cold Younger
Dryas. That implies that in a future greenhouse world–when sea ice is
diminished, not expanded–a repeat cooling like the Younger Dryas
would be less likely.

As evidenced by his prominent authorship on the resulting papers, it
was these field trips that drew Comer deeply into the science. The
authorships were ” not an honorary thing,” says Alley. ” He was in the
discussions, he was contributing.” That’s the way he’s always been,
says his daughter Stephanie Comer. ” He’s someone who barely made it
out of high school and never went to college,” she says. ” But he
figured out how to educate himself. He’d find the best people out
there who knew about, say, inventory control, and he’d learn through
them. He approaches everything that way.” Her father’s initial hope of
bringing in the general public proved unrealistic, he says. Instead, ”
I became interested in the science side, understanding it myself.”

Good but not forever

Whatever the motivation, the Comer approach has been well received in
the broader community. ” They’re good people doing good science, no
doubt about that,” says paleoclimatologist Thomas Crowley of Duke
University in Durham, North Carolina, who has received no Comer
support. El Niño o modeler Mark Cane of Lamont, who only recently got
” a little money” from Comer, says, ” A lot of good work has come out
of it. Climate research in general is not very well funded these days,
so he’s keeping areas alive that would be in serious trouble.” That’s
okay with non-Comer recipients such as Crowley; it’s Comer’s money,
not the public’s, and he seems to know what to do with it.

Well received or not, Comer’s program is not open-ended. When
fellowship extensions end in 2 years, ” I’m out of funds for it,” says
Comer. ” We’re trying to get things started, things that wouldn’t be
supported otherwise. [After that], Uncle Sam is going to have to take
over. The fellowships enabled a group of 60 or 70 people to find jobs
in climate research, particularly abrupt climate change. That was the

Comer does have one other iron in the climate fire. Backing up the
science he’s funded, he is sinking millions a year into a small
Arizona company developing a method for extracting the main greenhouse
gas–carbon dioxide–right out of the air for permanent storage
underground. If some new science can’t win the day, perhaps some
innovative engineering can.

“Although it may be difficult to accept today, as few as four years
ago global warming was not front-page news in the mass media. But what
a gentleman by the name of Gary Comer saw and experienced in his daily
life concerned him greatly. Comer, the founder of Lands’ End(R)
clothing, loved the sea and loved sailing on it. He read about changes
in our environment attributed to global warming and personally
observed many of them.

In the fall of 2003, Gary Comer met with a small group of select
individuals who not only shared his concern about global warming but
had demonstrated the knowledge and hands-on experience to do something
about it. Shortly thereafter, as a result of initial funding from Gary
Comer, Global Research Technologies was born. The president of GRT,
Mr. Allen Wright, was a key member of that select group with whom
Comer met.

Others in that initial meeting included: Mr. Bill Schleicher, also
representing the Comer Institute; Dr. Wallace Broecker, Newberry
Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lamont-Doherty Earth
Observatory, Columbia University; Dr. Klaus Lackner, Ewing-Worzel
Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth and Environmental
Engineering at Columbia University; and Mr. Burt Wright, a principal
of Kelly, Wright & Associates , whose firm has provided continuing
mechanical engineering support to GRT. Prior to joining Columbia
University, Professor Lackner, while in key staff positions at the Los
Alamos National Laboratory, had published a number of technical papers
relative to the capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In
April of this year, Dr. Broecker received the Crafoord Prize in
Geosciences for his innovative and pioneering research on the
operation of the global carbon cycle and its interaction with

What sorbent is used in the GRT system?

“The type of sorbent and its chemistry are proprietary to GRT.
However, we can tell you that the sorbent we use is not sodium
hydroxide (NaOH) although we did use this sorbent in our very early
work on CO2 air-capture. The new sorbent represents a major step
forward as it greatly reduces the energy consumed in the process.”

Didn’t the ABC 20/20 Earthday special say that you used sodium
carbonate (Na2CO3) to wash the collector sheets?

“Yes, it did. In this particular implementation we actually move
back and forth between Na2CO3 and NaHCO3. Energetically this
transition is much better than that between NaOH and Na2CO3.”

Would the GRT system work for flue stacks in power plants or at cement

“Our system is not designed for flue stacks, and we are not
competing with power plants except in special circumstances. But, yes,
it would of course work in those environments. However, our
proprietary sorbent is matched to air and there are better choices for
flue stack capture.

The focus of our work at GRT has been on capturing carbon dioxide
that cannot be captured at a power plant or other fixed source, for
example a cement kiln or steel plant. About 20 percent of the CO2
emitted to the atmosphere is from the transportation sector –
primarily automobiles and trucks. Since attaching a CO2 collector to a
vehicle is not practical (read why in FAQ below), air-capture is the
only known way to remove this pollutant.”

What is the physical structure and/or appearance of the GRT collector

“The system uses “leaves” to form filter packages much like
furnace filters. The air blowing through the collector unit can be at
low speeds, comparable to a slow wind. Unlike the wind turbines being
used for electrical power production, the GRT system does not require
high wind speeds to operate well.”

What determines the uptake rate of the GRT collector; that is, what
determines how much carbon dioxide you can capture in a given time?

“The uptake rate is a function of the volume of the filter
packages. Better filter materials can be packed into smaller volumes
for the same performance. Our goal is to make the filter packages
smaller, but their current size is probably acceptable.”

Since cars are a major source of CO2 in the atmosphere, why not attach
the GRT filters directly to cars and trucks?

“It is true that the transportation sector, primarily cars and
trucks but also airplanes, produces a lot of CO2. According to the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average car in the United
States produces about five tons of CO2 each year. Even though the GRT
device could work on a car, there would be no room on board to store
all that carbon dioxide. Fifteen gallons of gasoline in a tank would
turn into 300 pounds of CO2 weighing down the trunk. At GRT we believe
that the infrastructure for recycling all those filled containers
would be much more expensive than collecting an equal amount of CO2
directly at the site where it will be used or stored.”

Won’t the GRT units be “eyesores” when they are installed in populated
areas or in scenic locales? I have read about “thousand foot towers”
and forests of artificial trees, and I have read about growing
concerns about wind-power farms and their negative impact on the

“We at GRT understand these concerns. One of the most important
features of the GRT units is that emission sources and capture sites
can finally be separated. CO2 capture can be performed anywhere, and
that means away from populated areas and away from environmentally
sensitive locations. Although some earlier articles in the popular
press talked about large towers or football-sized fields of
collectors, the GRT units are flexible in size and could be
incorporated into the design of industrial facilities or even enclosed
in barn-like structures in rural areas. Most importantly, the number
of units will be small, hundreds of times smaller than for a wind farm
achieving the same CO2 reduction through substitution for fossil fuel
generated power.”

What is the energy penalty you are paying for CO2 capture and sorbent

“The energy penalty is comparable to or less than that of CO2
capture in the flue stack of a conventional power plant. This is not
surprising because flue stack sorbents are sufficiently strong to work
with air capture. Thus the energy required to recover the sorbent is
the about the same.”

Why is it necessary to recover the sorbent material? Why not dispose
of the CO2 as it is bound to the sorbent material?

“This is a matter of economics. Materials that can absorb CO2 out
of the air efficiently and fast are engineered for this specific
purpose. It would be prohibitively expensive not to recycle these
sorbents many times.”

Your website mentions the use of electrodialysis to separate the
carbon dioxide from the sorbent and regenerate the chemical solutions.
It talks about plans to develop other methods to achieve this step.
Why is this important?

“Electrodialysis uses electric power for sorbent recovery. A major
accomplishment of GRT is that even if this electricity were produced
by a conventional coal-based power plant, the CO2 capture would exceed
the CO2 release. Net capture is positive but small. As long as the
U.S. electricity grid is not carbon neutral, intensive use of
electricity for sorbent recycling remains therefore economically
unattractive. This is why GRT is developing other options.
Fortunately, the GRT sorbents allow for non-electrochemical recovery
cycles that use heat rather than electric power. CO2 produced in heat
generation would be captured inside the recovery device. The air
capture device may deliver for sequestration an additional 0.2 to 0.3
tons of CO2 for every ton of CO2 captured from the air.”

What will happen to the carbon dioxide the GRT system removes from the

“There are large international efforts underway to store CO2 that
is captured from power plants and other large sources of CO2.
Collectively these technologies are referred to as carbon capture and
storage (CCS). GRT’s air capture technology would add another option
for capturing CO2 that can be applied to any source. Air capture
technology can take advantage of any storage and reuse technology.
Geological sequestration, already performed in the North Sea,
represents the first large scale and economic option for CO2 storage.
However, other storage options like mineral sequestration are likely
to become available in the future. In the near term, any use of carbon
dioxide provides an opportunity for air capture technology.”

“Extensive deployment of the GRT air-capture system makes it possible
to envision for the first time an actual reduction of carbon dioxide
levels in the atmosphere, perhaps even to pre-industrial levels.  This
capability is unique to air-capture of CO2 from the atmosphere.

The development and demonstration by GRT of a system that captures and
removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has far-reaching
consequences in the battle to mitigate greenhouse gas levels. Coal-
fired power plants are currently the major source of anthropogenic CO2
emissions and hence the major contributor to carbon dioxide as a
greenhouse gas. Other significant industrial sources of carbon dioxide
emissions include steel mills and cement kilns. All of these large
producers of carbon dioxide emissions have another important feature
in common. They are fixed in location; emissions can be captured
onsite. But the third largest source of CO2 emissions is not fixed in

That source is the transportation sector, which accounts for over 20
percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. It has been estimated that
in the United States alone cars, light trucks and SUVs exhaust almost
two billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually.
Retrofitting of existing coal-fired plants is extremely expensive, but
it can be done. And new technologies, including coal gasification and
oxy-fuel and IGCC systems, are being developed that will reduce power
plant emissions. But the fitting or retrofitting of literally millions
of cars, trucks or even trains to capture CO2 from their exhaust
streams is simply not practical. Hauling a “trailer” behind every
passenger car in Los Angeles and Buenos Aires to collect exhaust
emissions would not only exacerbate existing traffic congestion but
would reduce gasoline (or ethanol) mileage with attendant increases in
fuel consumption. Simply put, carbon dioxide emissions from the
transportation sector are going to end up in the atmosphere and unless
absorbed in the world’s oceans or by surface vegetation will remain in
the atmosphere for literally hundreds of years.

Removing this carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is the exciting
promise of air-capture. And that is what the GRT ACCESS(tm) system has
demonstrated. Furthermore, with capture of CO2 from the atmosphere
demonstrated in a pilot operation, an important corollary benefit will
accrue. That benefit is that the CO2 collector can be located at the
point of carbon dioxide end-use or sequestration. For example, the
carbon dioxide originating from all those vehicles in Buenos Aires can
be captured at an oil field in Alberta, Canada, where it could be used
on-site for enhanced-oil-recovery (EOR) operations or it can be
captured in South Africa to feed a growing demand in that country for
feed stocks for petrochemical production. If the decision is to
sequester a given quantity of CO2 in a specific geological formation,
the air-capture system could be located at that physical location.
Within the United States, formations in Ohio, Oklahoma and Michigan
among other sites appear to hold promise for long-term carbon dioxide
storage underground.

Any discussion of global warming would be incomplete, and even
misleading, without pointing out that not all carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere is the result of power generation, industrial production or
even the millions of cars and trucks on the roads today. Forest fires
and agricultural burning, volcanic eruptions, loss of natural
vegetation through land clearing and even methane hydrate release from
melting permafrost, all impact the level of greenhouse gases.
Mitigation of these gases, regardless of their source, holds the
promise of reducing human disease and illness worldwide, stabilizing
acidity in the world’s oceans and preserving the crop and forest lands
that are essential to the well-being of all of us.”

“Because carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are typically very
much lower than levels in the flue gas of a conventional fossil-fueled
power plant, the GRT development team will design and build an air-
capture system that will be sufficiently robust to function unattended
for long periods of time in remote locations worldwide.

Given the exciting and important consequences of being able to capture
and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere anywhere in the world,
it is only reasonable to ask why this technology was not developed and
demonstrated previously. To answer that question, it is necessary to
re-enter the world of freshman college chemistry or chemical
engineering – as unappealing as that might sound to some. And the
question is how much carbon dioxide is there in a bucket of air? Well,
the answer is that in a conventional coal-fired electrical power
generating plant about ten percent of the flue gas “exhaust” is CO2.
In the atmosphere, the answer is that about 0.04 percent of that
bucket of air is CO2. Yes, it is necessary to process about 250 times
as much “atmospheric air” as power plant flue gas to collect the same
amount of carbon dioxide.

And processing that much more atmospheric air would be prohibitively
expensive using existing power plant capture technology. Furthermore,
the processes commonly used in power plant CO2 capture, employ
chemical compounds that although safe to handle within the confines of
the plant would pose an unacceptable health risk if utilized in an
unattended air-capture system erected, for example, in a remote oil
field where livestock would be the nearest neighbors.

In addition, routine maintenance operations typically would be done on
a daily basis if not more frequently at a power plant “CO2 scrubbing”
facility. That would not be the case for a remotely sited air-capture

In short, the R&D team at GRT faced the challenge of designing and
building a system that was in every sense “robust”. Chemicals used to
attract, hold and then subsequently release those very rare (0.04
percent) CO2 molecules must be sufficiently robust to withstand
repeated regeneration and re-use.

The physical structure of the system must be robust enough to
withstand strong winds and freezing temperatures. Lubricants must be
robust enough to repeatedly withstand both extremely cold and
extremely hot weather over long periods of time. And all of that with
minimal “adult supervision” once the system was in place and

“A GRT air-capture system arrives at the dock in an isolated third-
world country. Its components are “containerized” in smaller crates so
that they can be unloaded by hand and readily transported to the
installation site. There they are unloaded and quickly assembled into
a functioning unit. Carbon dioxide is captured from the atmosphere and
piped into a small adjacent greenhouse. The seeds in the pots inside
have hardly begun to sprout, but the local residents know how sweet
those tomatoes will taste. Gary Comer would be a very happy man.

Designing and building a full-scale working prototype is a major
accomplishment for any research and development organization. That the
GRT team has succeeded in doing so “on time and under budget” is
clearly a milestone event. But, at the same time, it is only the first
step to commercial success. The original goal was to build a system
that could pull carbon dioxide gas out of the atmosphere and deliver
it in suitable form to an end-market for CO2 or deliver it for
geological sequestration. This has been accomplished.

What remains to be done? First and foremost, a number of additional
machines must be built and subsequently installed and operated in
diverse environments. In short, the GRT system must be extensively
field tested. End-users will (and should) demand a high quality and
reliable product. To ensure this happens, GRT plans to conduct a full
Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) to confirm operational

From the beginning, GRT has assumed that various designs or
configurations of its air-capture system would be necessary to
accommodate the diverse requirements of worldwide installations. One
“size” will not fit all situations. Therefore, the major components of
the system, namely the collector, the CO2 recovery unit and the
regeneration unit will be modular in design. Furthermore in order to
minimize transportation and installation costs, the various modules
will be designed and built to be readily “containerized”. Some remote
locations may require that “sub-modules” be designed and built because
the local infrastructure cannot handle the standard-sized components.

Going forward, additional R&D effort will be required to identify
alternatives to the use of electrodialysis (ED) cells to regenerate
the chemical solutions that do the “heavy lifting” of capturing CO2
from the air.

ED cells are considered proven technology and are widely employed in
other industrial applications. But generation of electrical power
typically results in the generation of substantial quantities of
carbon dioxide, as described above. Obviously, a system designed to
remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere cannot itself be a net
producer of CO2 or be based on a process that is a net producer.

However, GRT air-capture units can be placed in locations where
electrical power is generated from geothermal sources or from
hydroelectric plants, and therefore little or no carbon dioxide is
produced in the generation process. Such locations have an “added
plus” if the CO2 captured can be used or sequestered in the same
geographical area, minimizing both transportation costs and the
likelihood that additional carbon dioxide would be generated in
shipping by truck or rail.

It is also true that as fossil-fueled power plants are retrofitted or
built to capture the carbon dioxide that they produce, the carbon
penalty for using electrodialysis for chemical regeneration will
become less and less of a factor.

Where adequate “green electricity” is not readily available in the
short term, alternatives to the ED cell will be developed and
integrated into the air-capture system. The GRT team is already hard
at work identifying and evaluating the most promising approaches,
searching for new “engines” to power carbon dioxide capture and

One such alternative is based on a solvent which has the ability to
release carbon dioxide, ready for sale or sequestration, from the air-
capture collector and subsequently refresh the collector for the next
process cycle. This proprietary system has already been demonstrated
successfully on a laboratory scale. Design and engineering studies are
underway preparatory to building one or more prototypes for field

“Our success depends on the caliber of people that we hire. A career
at GRT offers a chance to be an integral part in shaping the direction
of our planets future. Additionally, we offer a competitive and
comprehensive compensation package.

We look for people who are professional, adaptable, self-motivated,
passionate and creative. GRT recognizes that the right person,
offering their ideas and expertise, will enable us to continue our

Global Research Technologies is an Equal Employment Opportunity
employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for
employment without regard to race, national origin, gender, age,
religion, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status or marital

There are currently no positions available.”


e-mail  :  kl2010 [at] columbia [dot] edu
phone  :  (212) 854-0304

e-mail  :  broecker [at] ldeo [dot] columbia [dot] edu

e-mail  :  info [at] grestech [dot] com
phone  :  (520) 547-0956

e-mail  :  buzz [at] kwmech [dot] com
phone  :  (520) 887-1919 ext. 307


World”s Richest People / Billionaires
#746 Gary Comer

Age: 78
Fortune: self made
Source: Lands’ End
Net Worth: 1.0 Billion
Country Of Citizenship: United States
Residence: Chicago, Illinois, United States, North America
Industry: Apparel
Marital Status: married, 2 children
High School, Diploma

Chicago native quit copywriting job to sail full-time. Sold boating
equipment through mail-order catalog to fund life on the high seas.
Errant apostrophe in Lands’ End moniker became permanent typo in
trademark (too costly to reprint). Relocated to Wisconsin; expanded
into luggage, clothes, outerwear. Took public in 1986. Sold to Sears,
Roebuck for $1.9 billion in 2002. Philanthropy steered toward climate
change, children’s causes: more than $40 million to new University of
Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital.

Gary Comer, 1927-2006

Gary C. Comer, founder of the Lands’ End clothing-catalogue company
and long-term supporter of projects to help children, especially those
on the South Side of Chicago, died today from cancer at his home in
Chicago. He was 78.

“Gary Comer’s extraordinary contributions to the children of Chicago,
especially those on the South Side, have already improved the lives
and health of thousand and will continue to so do for generations to
come,” said Robert Zimmer, President of the University of Chicago.
“He was a man of unparalleled vision and generosity and we are all
enormously indebted to him and his memory.”

Mr. Comer left a remarkable philanthropic legacy of support for
children’s health care, education and the study of global climate
change. His primary focus over the last decade was a series of gifts
totaling more than $84 million that led to the creation and expansion
of the Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago.

Those gifts include a $21 million donation in 2001 to build the six-
story, 242,000 square-foot Comer Children’s Hospital, which opened
February 19, 2005, and a $20 million gift in 2003 to add a pediatric
emergency room, as well as support for other programs. In 2006 he made
a $42-million donation to the University of Chicago to create the
Comer Center for Children and Specialty Care — a four-story, 122,500
square-foot facility adjoining Comer Children’s Hospital — and to
recruit leading physician-scientists and build programs providing
state-of-the-art care and advancing the forefront of pediatric
medicine. The gift is the largest single donation ever made to the
University of Chicago.

“My wife Francie and I have been determined to find the most effective
ways to give back to my old neighborhood,” said Comer in January,
2006. “We have chosen to do that by that focusing on fundamental needs
such as children’s health and education. What could be more important
than that?”

Gary Campbell Comer was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago
and graduated from the Paul Revere School, 1010 E. 72nd Street, in
1942. An avid sailor since childhood, Comer decided at age 33 to give
up a 10-year career as an advertising copywriter at Young & Rubicam to
start his own company, as long as it had some connection with sailboat

In the fall of 1962, he started a mail-order sailing equipment
business, distributing sailing gear, rain suits, and sweaters. The
first location for the company was in an apartment on North Kedzie
Avenue. In the spring of 1963, Comer and five partners incorporated
Lands’ End Yacht Stores (the misplaced apostrophe was a typo that
became part of the firm’s history), and moved to a rent-free basement
office on Elston Avenue.

By 1965, they had begun to make a small profit and they printed their
first catalogue, which became an industry legend for its clever and
tight writing. In 1978, Comer moved the warehouse and phone operations
to Dodgeville, Wisconsin. In 1986, Lands’ End went public. It is the
second largest apparel-only mail-order business and the world’s
largest clothing Web site.

Comer stepped down as president of Lands’ End in 1990, but remained as
chairman of the board and the majority stockholder. In 2002 Sears
purchased Lands’ End.

Through private donations, the Comers have supported several Chicago-
based projects that advance health and education, especially for
children on the South Side. They have given about $50 million to the
Revere School community, including $30 million to create the Gary
Comer Youth Center, an activity, performance and education center for
area youths, adjacent to his alma mater.   He has given $7 million to
the Revere School, to support a series of educational initiatives; $5
million to a neighborhood housing initiative; and about $1.5 million
to the South Shore Drill Team.

At the University of Chicago Medical Center, the Comers have also
supported research on a novel treatment for ovarian cancer and
launched the Comer Pediatric Mobile Care program, run by University
physicians, which brings comprehensive primary and preventive health
care to students at South Side public schools. His wife, Frances, is a
longtime member of the University of Chicago’s Women’s Board.

“The Gary Comer Abrupt Climate Change Fellowship supports leading
scientists studying the causes and consequences of abrupt changes in
climate by funding postdocs, grad students, and technicians. The
program also seeds special abrupt climate change field work and
projects requiring fast-track funding.”


About the author

“Wally Broecker is the Newberry Professor of Geochemistry at Columbia
University. Over the last 50 years he has conducted research on the
geochemical cycles of the element carbon and on the record of climate
contained in polar ice and ocean sediments.”

“He has authored over 400 journal articles and 7 books. He is perhaps
best known for his discovery of the role played by the ocean in
triggering the abrupt climate changes which punctuated glacial time.
Broecker is a member of the National Academy of Science and recipient
of the National Medal of Science.”

Publications by Wallace Broecker

The Role of the Ocean in Climate, 2005 (7.1 MB)
This book presents the big picture regarding two subjects which
dominate thinking with regard to our planet’s climate during glacial
times: the role of the Atlantic Ocean’s conveyor circulation in the
abrupt reorganizations of the Earth’s climate system, and the cause
for the large drop in atmospheric CO2 content which accompanied each
major glaciation. These same two subjects lie at the core of attempts
to come to grips with man-induced global warming.

The Business Executive’s Guide to Global Warming, 2005 (.5 MB)
This is a high level summary of the scientific evidence, effects, and
possible responses to the problem of global warming. Required reading
for decision and policy makers.

Fossil Fuel CO2 and the Angry Climate Beast, 2003 (4.7 MB)
Created as a companion to a Frontiers of Science lecture series at
Columbia, this book discusses the fate and climatic consequences of
the CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels, and the effect tripled
atmospheric CO2 may have on our climate. It addresses the limitations
of current climate models, and looks at different approaches to
reducing atmospheric carbon.

The Glacial World According to Wally, 3rd Rev Ed, August 2002 (17.6
This is a book on glacial climates Wally has used to accompany his
course on climate change at Columbia. It introduces the student to the
basics of climate science.

About The Earth Institute
The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world’s leading
academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and
society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core
disciplines — earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering
sciences, social sciences and health sciences — and stresses cross-
disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research,
training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology
to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on
the needs of the world’s poor. For more information, visit
For info on Jeffrey Sachs, see

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