By Sara Anne Lee Xin (BAC Apprentice)
With all the daunting news on climate change and global warming, this headline is a pleasant change for readers, as it gives humanity some hope with regards to the future of planet earth.
Established in 2009, the Climeworks organisation launched their Orca Factory in Iceland, earlier this month. This factory’s main purpose is to suck the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and to store it in the ground. It is the world’s first and largest direct air capturer and storage plant. According to experts, this breakthrough technology will be crucial in battling the rise of carbon emissions, over the next few decades.
How is the carbon dioxide sucked out of the air?
Air is drawn into the collector through human-sized fans, where carbon dioxide is captured separately on a special surface, inside the collector. Once this material is full, the collector is closed, and the temperature is increased – freeing the gas while collecting just the carbon dioxide. The nitrogen and oxygen collected, are released back into the atmosphere.
The heat and electricity required to run the direct air capture process, is supplied by the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant, negating any effect of further carbon emissions.
How is it stored?
With the help of the Icelandic firm, Carbfix’s technology, the carbon dioxide is then mixed with water and pumped deep underground. Through the process of natural mineralization, the carbon dioxide reacts with the basalt rock and will turn into dark grey stones within two few years.
In lay-man terms, it is the process of removing carbon dioxide from the air and storing in underground, allowing it to naturally mineralize into stone. Consequently, it removes the main problematic gas that aggravates global warming and helps restore a balance in carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Climeworks believes that they can extract 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year, which is equivalent to taking 870 cars off the road!
The main issue that Climeworks is facing at the moment, is the cost of the whole process, which comes up to about $600-800 per metric ton of carbon dioxide. While this cost and capacity is not ideal to create significant impacts on defeating global warming, Climeworks is confident that these figures will improve, making carbon capture affordable and useful within the next few years.
If you are looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint, you could subscribe and pay a ranging monthly fee of 7 EUR to 49 EUR, which orders 85kg to 600kg of permanent carbon dioxide removal, by Climeworks. A confirmation will be sent to you at the end of the year, notifying you of the amount of carbon dioxide removal that you have ordered, ensuring measurability and accountability of their services. Currently, Climeworks has more than 8,000 Pioneers spanning across 56 countries.
Although it will take years if not decades for this technology to resolve the ever growing issue of global warming and climate change, it is a step forward and we should all be enthusiastic about this breakthrough technology as it promises us a better future.