A Swiss startup is building the largest plant to capture CO2 from the air
The plant will be built in Iceland, construction will last 18 to 24 months, and it will have the capacity to suck 36,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the air annually.
The Swiss startup Climeworks AG is building the world’s largest facility for direct air capture (DAC) and its disposal underground. The plant will be built in Iceland, construction will last 18 to 24 months, and it will have the capacity to suck 36,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the air annually.
That’s a fraction of the 36 billion tons of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions produced worldwide last year, but it’s ten times more than Climeworks’ existing DAC plant, currently the largest in the world. Scientists say a leap in scale in technology is “inevitable Neon” if the world is to meet climate change targets.
The “mammoth” plant will contain around 80 large blocks of fans and filters that suck in air and extract carbon dioxide from it, which the Icelandic carbon storage company Carbfix then mixes with water and injects into the ground where it turns into rock through a chemical reaction. The process will be powered by a nearby geothermal plant.
Christoph Gebald, one of the company’s CEOs, said that after the launch of this plant, Climeworks intends to build an even bigger plant that will capture about half a million tons of carbon dioxide per year, and then by the end of the decade, through project financing, to replicate more such plants.
The new facility was partially financed by the 600 million Swiss francs (€594 million) that Climeworks raised through a financing round in April. The company also sells one of the most expensive carbon credits in the world – costing up to €1,000 per tonne. Customers include Microsoft, Audi, and Boston Consulting Group.
“That’s the price of growth,” Gebald told Reuters. “This is an investment we need to make as a company to move forward.”
According to the International Energy Agency, there are currently 18 plants for direct capture of carbon dioxide from the air in the world. At the end of 2024, the American oil company Occidental also plans to start a large DAC plant with a capacity of one million tons of carbon dioxide per year.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) points out that energy-intensive and expensive technologies such as DAC will be necessary in the coming decades to remove carbon dioxide on a large scale in order to limit global warming to 1,5 degrees Celsius and avoid increasingly serious climate impacts.
Heleen De Coninck, an IPCC fellow and professor at the Eindhoven University of Technology, said that DAC must be powered by carbon dioxide-free energy to be useful and that these technologies are no substitute for urgent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.