Climeworks Captures Double the CO2 for Half the Energy

Climeworks Captures Double the CO2 for Half the Energy

The geoengineering debate—which, in part, concerns pulling back carbon that’s already in the atmosphere—has been hindered to date by the lack of scalable tech. The Swiss startup Climeworks is hoping to help turn the tide.

The Zurich-based company has just unveiled the latest generation of its direct-air capture (DAC) technology, which it says will help remove millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by the end of the decade.

Climeworks has, in fact, already made a name for itself by building a series of large-scale carbon capture plants in Iceland. The company switched on a facility dubbed Mammoth last month, which is now the world’s largest DAC plant and will ultimately be able to pull 36,000 tonnes of CO2 out of the air annually.

But speaking at the opening of the Climework’s annual Carbon Removal Summit in Zurich yesterday, co-CEO Jan Wurzbacher noted that according to projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world will probably need to be removing between 6 billion and 16 billion tonnes of CO2 a year by 2050.

“If we look at our scale-up curves—our growth rates that we need between now and 2050, to achieve those goals—those rates are very similar to the ones that solar PV and wind have shown over decades as well.” —Jan Wurzbacher, Climeworks

While that remains a distant goal, the company has taken a modest step in that direction with the announcement of the third generation of its DAC technology. The new system features a revamped cubelike design and a reengineered sorbent (the material used to absorb CO2), which Wurzbacher said can capture twice as much carbon dioxide as the previous design. The new system also uses half the energy, while the materials are projected to last three times as long—all of which cuts overall costs by 50 percent.

“So it’s really a leap forward from the technology side,” Wurzbacher said. “And all of this will be the basis for all future Climeworks plants to be built. In particular, for our next installation that is planned in the United States in Louisiana within the so-called Cypress Hub, which should be the first megatonne [one-million-tonne] carbon dioxide removal hub in the U.S.”

A Different Kind of Megatonne

The Project Cypress DAC Hub, which is being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, is a partnership between Climeworks, nonprofit technology-development company Battelle, and carbon storage firm Heirloom. The plant is due to come online in 2027 and will initially be capable of removing 250,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, with the figure rising to a megatonne by the end of the decade.

That is a big jump from Climework’s current capacity, and Wurzbacher said the company has been working hard to optimize its technology to meet the demand. Its plants work by using giant fans to draw air over beds of sorbent, which are housed in large “collector units.” Once the sorbent has become fully saturated, these units are shut and then heated to…

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The post “Climeworks Captures Double the CO2 for Half the Energy” by Edd Gent was published on 06/05/2024 by