Largest CO₂ filter plant in the world opens in Iceland

World's largest CO₂ filter plant inaugurated in Iceland

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A new plant for the direct capture and storage of CO₂, known as “Mammoth”, has recently begun operations in Iceland, making it the largest of its kind in the world. This is the second commercial plant from the Swiss company Climeworks in Iceland and it is approximately ten times bigger than its predecessor “Orca”.

Removing 36,000 tons of CO₂ per year directly from the air

The plant on the Hellisheidi plateau has a maximum capacity of 36,000 tons of CO₂ per year. It utilizes filter collectors to extract CO₂ directly from the air and stores it underground for permanent storage. An ETH Zurich spin-off recently announced the successful start of their Direct Air Capture and Storage (DAC+S) plant. The plant has already begun capturing CO₂ using twelve out of a total of 72 collectors. The plant is being constructed in a scalable modular design and is scheduled for completion later this year. All 72 collectors will be installed on-site.

Climeworks uses renewable energy to power its energy-intensive natural air capture process, which relies on low-temperature warmth, like boiling water. The partner company ON Power in Iceland supplies the energy required for this, generating electricity from geothermal energy.

Underground storage of CO₂

Once the CO₂ is released from the filters, it gets dissolved in seawater and transported to underground cavities by Carbfix, the Icelandic partner for CO₂ storage. It undergoes a natural process when it interacts with basalt rock, resulting in the formation of stable minerals that can be stored indefinitely. Climeworks ensures that the entire process is thoroughly examined and certified by independent third parties.

Carbfix was established in 2007 through a collaboration between Reykjavík Energy, the University of Iceland, CNRS, a French research organization, and Columbia University in New York. It is currently a subsidiary of ON Power.

Mammoth represents a significant advancement in Climeworks’ project pipeline, to achieve substantial carbon capture capacity by 2030 and an even larger capacity by 2050 through the establishment of multiple DAC plants worldwide. The company aims to make a significant contribution to addressing global warming.

Canadian company plans to expand the plant by 2025

Alongside Iceland, Climeworks is also working on the development of multiple megaton plants in the USA. Another company in North America that specializes in DAC technology is Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company that also receives support from Bill Gates. Carbon Engineering has set a commendable goal of removing 500,000 tons of CO₂ per year from the ambient air with a plant that is currently under construction in Texas. This is a significant amount, nearly 14 times more than what Mammoth aims to achieve. The plant is expected to start operating by 2025.

Climeworks is also receiving support in the USA. The Swiss company has recently secured public funding from the US Department of Energy, amounting to 50 million dollars, to launch “Project Cypress” – a DAC plant in Louisiana.

During the recent Mammoth presentation, Climeworks revealed its ongoing exploration of carbon capture possibilities in Canada, Norway, Oman, and Kenya. Climeworks now offer compensation packages that include natural methods of CO₂ removal, such as reforestation or biochar.

The DAC process remains expensive.

Internationally, Climeworks collaborates with a variety of prominent organizations and companies, such as the asset manager Partners Group, the major banks UBS and JPMorgan, the reinsurer Swiss Re, and the Swiss car importer Amag. Microsoft and the payment platform Stripe were among the initial corporate customers for the “Orca” system.

Nevertheless, the cost of the DAC process for capturing CO₂ remains high, requiring Climeworks to rely on numerous investors and significant customers to effectively implement the technology on a large scale. Last year, Climeworks managed to secure an impressive 650 million dollars from investment companies.

There is a lack of consensus among experts regarding the costs associated with DAC technology. Generally speaking, the costs vary from $100 to $1,000 per ton of CO₂ removal. Based on current analysis, most experts project the expenses to be in the range of several hundred dollars per tonne of CO₂.

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