The startup behind the world’s largest direct carbon gas capture plant has announced that in the next few years it will build a much larger plant to permanently remove millions of tons of COtwo of the atmosphere.
At the opening of the Orca project of “direct aerial capture”, as the technique is called, in Iceland, on Wednesday (8), the co-executive chief of Climeworks, Zurich, responsible for the project, told the Financial Times that the company has already started to design a plant ten times larger. It must be completed in the next few years.
Orca will capture about 4,000 tons of CO per yeartwo and store them underground. It is a tiny part of the 33 billion tons of gas that the IEA (International Energy Agency) predicts will be emitted around the world this year, but it is a demonstration of the technology’s viability.
“It’s the first time we’ve done commercial CO extractiontwo from the air and we combine it with underground storage,” says Wurzbacher.
The Orca plant sells the most expensive carbon offset in the world. With it, the removal of a ton of COtwo costs up to £1,000 (about R$7,200). The plant has Microsoft founder Bill Gates among its customers.
Wurzbacher said commercial demand is so high that the credits it can sell in their 12-year lifespan are nearly exhausted. That’s what led to the accelerated development of the much larger plant that will use the same technology.
Among Orca’s other clients are Swiss Re (insurance company), which recently signed a $10 million carbon removal contract with the plant, as well as Audi (automobile company) and Shopify (e-commerce service). ).
Some energy models indicate that, in order to reach the goal of zero emissions, by the middle of the century the world will need to remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide annually from the atmosphere. Critics of direct air capture say the technology is too expensive and consumes too much energy to be used on a significant scale.
But her profile has been rising. The infrastructure bill recently proposed by US President Joe Biden includes $3.5 billion for the construction of four direct air capture centers.
Carbon Engineering, Climeworks’ rival startup based near Vancouver, is building with Occidental Petroleum a plant in Texas that aims to extract up to 1 million tonnes of CO2 annually.two.
As only 0.04% of the atmosphere is made up of carbon dioxide, extracting the gas can be a time-consuming and energy-intensive endeavor.
Wurzbacher said the Orca plant, powered by geothermal energy, is more efficient and used fewer materials than Climeworks’ previous technology. “She really represents the next step.” Orca uses dozens of large extractors to pull the air, which passes through a collector in which the COtwo binds to other molecules. Then the binding substance is heated, releasing carbon dioxide gas.
To announce the inauguration of the plant, on Wednesday, a tank full of carbon dioxide collected from the air was injected underground. There it will mix with water and, over time, as it reacts with a basaltic formation, it will convert to rock, where the carbon will be trapped.
Translation by Clara Allain