Climate change

The world’s largest direct carbon capture plant goes operational

The world’s largest carbon capture plant-Direct Air Capture (DAC) went operational on Wednesday in Iceland. The plant is a new developing technology that will help suck carbon dioxide out of the air.

The Orca plant set up by Swiss startup Climeworks AG to reduce the effects of greenhouse gas on the planet is a milestone in the direct air capture industry. The plant is one of its kind that can permanently capture and store CO2 rather than recycling it.

The new plant can suck carbon dioxide from the air and turn it to stone underground, sequestering 4,000 tons of pollution a year. This is through a chemical process where CO2 is captured from the atmosphere, mineralized underground, and converted into stones.

Unlike other carbon capture technologies that prevent carbon dioxide from being released from dirty technologies in the first place, the DAC plant presents the possibility of undoing the damage already done.

Climeworks direct air capture plant

“This is a big step forward in enabling us to capture carbon dioxide that’s already been emitted to the air and store it permanently and safely,” David Morrow, the Director of Research at the Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy at American University, said in an email. “That’s going to be an important supplement to emissions reductions in stabilizing the climate. … Orca is still small compared to the scale of the challenge, but it’s an important step in the right direction.”

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The Orca plant will bump up the world’s existing direct air capture by more than 40% and suck 13,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year. 

The launch of the project comes after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warned that the world could witness more frequent extreme weather events in the years to come due to global warming. Climate experts stressed the importance of reducing greenhouse gas levels drastically and removing carbon dioxide emissions from the air permanently.

This innovation will therefore help scale up climate technology and ramp up carbon capture capacity significantly.

“Orca, as a milestone in the direct air capture industry, has provided a scalable, flexible, and replicable blueprint for Climeworks’ future expansion,” Christoph Gebald, co-CEO, and co-founder of Climeworks said.

“Achieving global net-zero emissions is still a long way to go, but with Orca, we believe that Climeworks has taken one significant step closer to achieving that goal,” Mr. Gebald added.

Apart from the Orca plant, a Canadian company Carbon Engineering is also building another DAC facility in Scotland that will capture between 500,000 and 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. 

The company is set to be operational by 2026. 

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