Swiss start-up ClimWorks announced on Tuesday that it would build a new factory in Iceland capable of absorbing ambient air and trapping carbon dioxide in rock. This facility, called Mammad, removes 36,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year. This will add to the 4,000-tonne capacity of the Orca plant, which opened last September in Helliche, near Reykjavk. According to ClimWorks, the new plant should be operational within 18 to 24 months.
Growing up using Iceland’s renewable geothermal resources, this technology will mark a contribution to tackling the challenges posed by increased human emissions and climate change. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 40,000 tons is equivalent to the average emissions of 8,600 cars a year, or the annual energy consumption of 5,000 households in the United States.
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Build the foundations
However, it aims to achieve a significant level of CO2 emissions from the air at the rate of one billion tons. “We are building the foundation for climate-related gigaton scale capability,” ClimWorks co-CEO John Worcespacher said in a statement.
The first plant, located near the Hellichety Geothermal Power Station near Reykjavk, will have 24 units of stacked containers. Fans fitted with filters to isolate carbon dioxide molecules suck in air. The partnership with CarbFix, an Icelandic company that is a pioneer in underground carbon storage, captures newly captured CO2 by burying it in surrounding basalt rock using a process called mineralization.
An inevitable long-term tool
One of the methods promoted by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to control global warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 is to capture and store carbon dioxide underground. Nineteen DAC (“direct air capture”) plants, most of them small, are currently operating worldwide, mainly in Europe, the United States and Canada, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) report from November 2021.
The first large-scale plant between Canadian carbon engineering and US oil company Occidental Petroleum is expected to open in the south of the United States in 2024 and capture up to one million tonnes of CO2 per year. The main CO2 capture technology is to capture directly in the chimneys of highly emitting factories, but air capture makes it possible to attack the already released CO2.
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