A Swiss startup is working on a solution to that pesky carbon dioxide that is killing the planet: burying it underground. Climeworks is building a ginormous direct air capture (DAC) facility in Iceland. The company expects it to be ready to start sucking 36,000 tons of CO2 annually out of the air within two years.
Dubbed Mammoth, the carbon capture plant will feature 80 large blocks of fans and filters to suck in the air and take out the CO2. Then Carbfix, an Icelandic carbon storage firm, will take over. They will mix the CO2 with water and inject it underground where voila! — a chemical reaction will transform the CO2 into rock. Maybe they should have named the plant Medusa.
Mammoth is just the start. Once it’s up and running, Climeworks plans to build an even bigger facility capable of capturing up to half a million tons of CO2 from the air annually. And then they’ll do it again. And again.
According to the International Energy Agency, 19 DACs are already operating around the world. But it’s more usual for the captured carbon to be treated with chemicals, then released back into the air. Climeworks already successfully built a much smaller DAC in Iceland, turning the carbon into stone. Orca came online last year and can capture 4,000 tons of CO2 per year.
However, Mammoth is set to be the largest DAC in the world. Occidental, a U.S. oil firm, is also planning a large DAC, set to open in 2024 and capture a million tons of CO2 per year.
“Based on most successful scale-up curves, reaching gigaton by 2050 means delivering at multi-megaton scale by 2030,” Christoph Gebald, cofounder and co-CEO of Climeworks, said in a statement. “Nobody has ever built what we are building in DAC, and we are both humble and realistic that the most certain way to be successful is to run the technology in the real world as fast as possible. Our fast deployment cycles will enable us to have the most robust operations at multi-megaton scale.”
Lead image via Climeworks