Last October, Swiss company Climeworks announced its participation in the CarbFix project in Iceland, where its DAC technology is capturing CO2 to be mineralised and permanently stored underground. This October, the project-planning phase for expanding the DACS capacity will begin.
“I think there is little as challenging as the biggest problem humanity has ever faced, which is climate change.”
Christoph Gebald, co-founder of Climeworks
The capture and long-term storage of atmospheric CO2 will be necessary if we are to protect humanity against the consequences of global warming. All scenarios for achieving the 1.5°C goal require ‘Carbon Dioxide Removal’ – i.e. the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere through long-term sequestration.
The CarbFix consortium, including Icelandic utility Reykjavik Energy and Climeworks, has successfully tested the Direct Air Capture and Storage (DACS) technology in Iceland. This will give everyone the opportunity to have their emissions removed from the atmosphere via Direct Air Capture, for the first time in the world.
With Direct Air Capture being the latest disruptive Negative Emissions Technology, climate scientists needed a “proof of concept” for the promising DACS technology – a milestone that Climeworks and Reykjavik Energy, the pioneers in capturing CO2 from air and storing it underground, have now achieved with its successful year-long demonstration within the CarbFix2 project.
“Today, we have a clear message for climate science and the rest of the world: Direct Air Capture and Storage not only works, but it’s safe, permanent and achievable on an industrial scale,” said Christoph Gebald, co-founder of Climeworks.
“From 2019, we will offer individuals, countries, businesses and institutions from all over the world the unique opportunity to reverse their past, present or future emissions permanently and safely with Direct Air Capture.”
DACS as a favourable Carbon Dioxide Removal technology
As the IPCC makes clear once more, it is now necessary to reduce worldwide emissions fast, whilst at the same time actively remove CO2 from our atmosphere. The global potential of DACS technology for the permanent removal of atmospheric CO2 is enormous. Not only is the land and water-use very low for DACS, but Climeworks plants can be implemented anywhere where basalt rock (or other CO2 storage possibilities) and renewable energy sources are available. More importantly, DACS plants do not require any fertile land for operation creating no strain on ecosystems.
The geological conditions for safe and permanent sequestration also exist outside of Iceland in regions of the world such as the USA, the Middle East and Africa.
“The storage capacity is such that, in theory, basalts could permanently hold the entire bulk of CO2 emissions derived from burning all fossil fuel on Earth,” says Dr. Sandra Snaebjornsdottir, a geologist working for CarbFix.
Successful pilot plant in Iceland
Around 25 kilometers from Reykjavik, the CarbFix consortium including Climeworks and its partner Reykjavik Energy has, over the past year, proved that the combination of capturing CO2 from air and subterranean sequestration works – even in complicated climatic conditions.
As part of the CarbFix2 Horizon 2020 project, the partners called on local engineering expertise to overcome challenging conditions like freezing temperatures combined with high humidity, or the high concentration of sulphur in the air.
“After an initially steep learning curve, we eventually ran the plant without failures for several months,” reported co-founder Jan Wurzbacher.
CO2 captured during the pilot phase was mixed with water, using the CarbFix process, and pumped into 700-metre-deep layers of basalt rock. There, the CO2 solution reacts with the underground basalt and turns into white, calcareous and harmless calcite, which fills the pores of the rock. Within two years, the CO2 is thus permanently and safely sequestered.
Expansion of DACS capacity
Thanks to its successful “proof of concept” with the CarbFix2 pilot plant, Reykjavik Energy, ON Power and Climeworks are now planning an expansion of their DACS capacity.
“At sites like ON Power’s Geothermal Park in Hellisheidi we have the potential to remove several hundred thousand to even millions of tonnes of CO2 annually from the atmosphere,” said Dr. Edda Sif Aradóttir, Deputy Managing Director at Reykjavik Energy.
“Together with ON Power and Climeworks we are currently planning the next scale-up steps for further increase DACS capacity at our site.”
Reverse emissions, join a movement, bring alive the Climeworks community
Climeworks will make CO2 Removal available for everyone. This will enable us all, even countries and businesses to reverse their past, present or future emissions. With this, Climeworks hopes to open to other visionaries out there the possibility to unite and join us in the quest for a safe future of our climate and planet. The pre-registration for the purchase is as of today possible via the Climeworks website.