Eyes are on plant in Iceland with carbon removal solution by direct air capture

Eyes are on plant in Iceland with carbon removal solution by direct air capture
Credit: Climeworks
(Tech Xplore)—Carbon reduction is one part of the battle as countries and organizations do their bit to save our planet. Another goal drawing considerable interest now is carbon removal.

"Scientific studies have warned that the two-degree climate target is not achievable without carbon removal solutions," said gasworld.

What is this two-degree limit all about? Noted in the Daily Mail: "The Paris Agreement seeks to limit a rise in world temperatures this century to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), ideally 1.5C (2.7F) above pre-industrial times."

Mark Prigg wrote in the Daily Mail: "U.N. data show that current plans for cuts in emissions will be insufficient, especially without the United States, and that the world will have to switch to net 'negative emissions' this century by extracting carbon from nature."

Akshat Rathi in Quartz put this in a sobering perspective: "We produce 40 trillion kg of each year, and we're on track to cross a crucial emissions threshold that will cause global temperature rise to pass the dangerous 2°C limit set by the Paris climate agreement."

So what about adding an option, not reductions, but direct air capture for carbon removal?

The technology is in greater focus now, with a test to twin from air with carbon burial, in that carbon capture will enter geological storage. Climeworks and Reykjavik Energy are joining hands on a project in Iceland.

Reuters and other news sites are reporting that Climeworks, a Swiss company, has embarked on the initiative to extract carbon dioxide from thin air in Iceland. The goal is to transform the gas into rock far below ground, said Reuters.

Climeworks said its direct air capture plants remove CO2 from the atmosphere "to unlock a negative emissions future." The company's Christoph Gebald and Jan Wurzbacher had done their research on direct air capture in their masters studies at ETH Zürich.

BusinessGreen said the Iceland site was being hailed as the first facility "to remove carbon dioxide straight from the air and store it underground." The Thursday report from The Engineer said it was a trial scheme.

Reuters provided some numbers: "Climeworks plans to suck 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over a year." That was "roughly the of a single American family."

That brings home the fact that this is a pilot system.

Although the project is small scale, "the main reason is to prepare a scale-up" of the technology, Jan Wurzbacher, director of Climeworks, told Reuters.

"The potential of scaling-up our technology in combination with CO2 storage is enormous," said Christoph Gebald, founder and CEO of Climeworks in The Engineer. "Not only here in Iceland but also in numerous other regions which have similar rock formations."

Nonetheless, Reuters also quoted a researcher who said it was promising "but it's not a silver bullet" for climate change. Jessica Strefler, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, commented on removing carbon dioxide from air. "Every ton of carbon dioxide we don't emit in the first place means we don't have to take it out later on," she said.

The trial will test the technology being used for this under specific weather conditions at the location in the South West of Iceland, said The Engineer.

The technology works by capturing carbon dioxide from ambient air, which is binded to a filter and heated with waste energy from the power station. CO2 is sent underground.

The plant is in Hellisheidi, Iceland. The geothermal power plant is fitted out with the capture and storage equipment.

The company's installation in Iceland is the first true "negative emissions" plant, said Akshat Rathi in Quartz.

Rathi explained more about the unit; it is capturing carbon dioxide from the air and transferring it to CarbFix to inject underground. "Because CarbFix has been monitoring the injection sites for the last three years, they can be sure there will be no leakage. And once mineralized, the CO2 will remain trapped for thousands or millions of years. This makes the Climeworks-CarbFix system the world's first verified 'negative emissions' plant."

CarbFix2 is the name of the project, led by Reykjavik Energy and this undertaking is part of that project.

"We are excited to announce that we are combining safe and permanent geological storage with our highly scalable removal technology through direct air capture of CO2. The pilot plant is part of the CarbFix2 project which stores the air-captured CO2 safely and permanently in basalt, leading us closer to our efforts to achieve global warming targets," said Climeworks.

This is how Climeworks explains what the system does: The DAC module captures CO2 from ambient air. The CO2 binds to their patented filter. Once the filter is saturated with CO2, it is heated by low-grade waste heat from the geothermal plant. The CO2 is released and bound to water. The carbonated water is pumped more than 700 metres underground. It reacts with the basaltic bedrock, forming solid minerals.

Climeworks said the partnership is helping the company realize its mission: to capture 1% of global emissions by 2025.


Explore further

Video: Developing carbon management solutions

More information: www.climeworks.com/climeworks- … -direct-air-capture/

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Oct 15, 2017
What they are removing is carbon dioxide, not carbon. That is, they are removing oxygen from the atmosphere and burying it. This is not a good idea, and in the long run it will lead to the depletion of oxygen in the atmosphere, a cure worse than the disease.

Oct 16, 2017
"What they are removing is carbon dioxide, not carbon. That is, they are removing oxygen from the atmosphere and burying it. This is not a good idea, and in the long run it will lead to the depletion of oxygen in the atmosphere, a cure worse than the disease."


Totally ridiculous thinking there.

Air contains: 20.95% oxygen, and 0.04% carbon dioxide. Even if they succeeded in removing all of the carbon dioxide in the air, there would still be about 20.9% oxygen left behind.

Oct 16, 2017
fta: "Carbon reduction is one part of the battle as countries and organizations do their bit to save our planet."

Maybe someone should pass the bill along to those that put that extra carbon into the atmosphere.

Oct 16, 2017
Whilst it's highly commendable that whilst we are still here people are doing whatever they can to make life more comfortable and healthy, it is unfortunately the case that it's all very futile.
This planet is doomed to total makeover when the final big earthquake arrives - leveling every mountain and drowning every island. The cities of man will be completely leveled. Nothing will remain.
So, as I said, whilst it's commendable to attempt to do so, one should just keep in mind that all efforts to "save" the planet are ultimately of no use whatsoever.

Now just to make a constructive contribution, it might help if all cities started implementing the green skyscraper idea as Milan (vertical forest idea) did. It might also help to create passively driven chimney stacks that suck in air at street level and use pressure differences to drive the air upwards whilst scraping the CO2 with active systems on the inside of the chimneys, if that is at all possible. Just my two pence worth.

Oct 16, 2017
"That is, they are removing oxygen from the atmosphere and burying it. This is not a good idea"

Oh sweet Lord - that wins the prize for "most uninformed statement of the year".

(BTW: If were you're really worried about oxygen depletion then you shouldn't have burned fossil fuels in the first place - because that act binds O2 from the air into CO2...oh...and you shouldn't be breathing as well, because that does the same.)

Oct 16, 2017
Well if we make California do something about managing their wild lands they would not be dumping 4 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. That's as much CO2 as all the coal plants in America combined for 6 years. Stop them and you fix global warming. Its not conservatives its the irresponsible left.

Oct 17, 2017
How much energy is being used for this activity which otherwise would be available for replacing the use of fossil fuels? It looks to me that there os not overall advantage in this idea.

Oct 19, 2017
Why are they removing CO2 from the atmosphere? It is a critical molecule for life on this planet.

Plants die at around 130ppm. At 200ppm they are alive, but only just (The figures are simplified, since different plants have different CO2 requirements). We have recently moved from 300ppm (adequate, but not optimal) to 400ppm (better). The Sahara is greening strongly, and we have bumper harvests due to the increased CO2. Ideally we should push it up to around 600ppm, but that is well beyond our capabilities at present.


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