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As the world’s population continues in its fight against climate change, a union of three different technologies could significantly increase the amount of carbon dioxide removed from the air, paving the way for the mitigation and theoretical reversal of climate change in the future.
An overabundance of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide, increases temperatures and shifts weather patterns on Earth. Carbon dioxide, together with methane, account for around 90% of all greenhouse gases, many of which are a consequence of anthropogenic activities such as farming, burning fossil fuels and deforestation.
Scientific research has centered on ways to capture and store the offending gas, as well as reducing its emission in the first place. A groundbreaking collaboration aims to permanently remove 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the air annually, via carbon capture and storage.
Removing Carbon Dioxide from the Air
Climeworks, which provides technology to help reverse climate change, is teaming up with carbon storage innovators Carbfix and Icelandic geothermal energy provider ON Power to construct a new plant designed to significantly scale-up carbon removal and storage in Iceland. This is the first time the technologies have come together on a project of this scale to eradicate carbon dioxide from the air.
Under the first agreement, Climeworks will build facilities inside ON Power’s Geothermal Park at Hellisheiði. The facilities will capture carbon dioxide from the air using direct air capture technology (DAC).
The technology captures and returns the carbon dioxide to the earth, where it will remain permanently removed from the air for millions of years.
Video Credit: Climeworks/YouTube.com
This collaboration with ON and Carbfix marks a big step forward in reducing the CO2 in our air."
Jan Wurzbacher, co-founder and co-CEO of Climeworks
Wurzbacher continued: “We are proud, together with our partners, to bring the permanent and safe removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the next level.”
Climeworks’ DAC technology runs exclusively on clean, renewable energy. In this case, the technology uses the Earth’s thermal energy, provided by ON Power’s geothermal power plant, located at Hellisheiði in the southwest of Iceland.
“The site in Iceland provides ideal conditions: the supply of renewable energy and a safe and natural storage space for our air-captured carbon dioxide,” adds Wurzbacher.
The ON Geothermal Park is a venue for companies utilizing the resources of the Hellisheiði Power Plant in a responsible and sustainable manner to create value and promote innovation in the field of geothermal operations. This agreement takes us a big step closer to realizing that vision.”
Berglind Rán Ólafsdóttir, CEO of ON Power
Berglind Rán Ólafsdóttir adds that the collaboration between ON, Carbfix and Climeworks showcases how innovative projects can come together to create and scale-up one of the solutions to global warming.
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Turning Carbon Dioxide to Stone
A second contract unites Climeworks with Carbfix to guarantee the safe storage of carbon dioxide through natural underground mineralization. Carbfix converts carbon dioxide into stone below ground in less than two years using proprietary technology that mimics and fast-tracks nature's method of permanently storing carbon.
The combination of the proprietary Carbfix and Climeworks technologies marks a turning point in climate action, allowing us to permanently capture CO2 already emitted to the atmosphere and rapidly turn into stone underground.”
Edda Sif Pind Aradóttir, CEO of Carbfix
The process starts by capturing steam after it has passed through turbines and dissolving it in water. It is then pumped below ground where it reacts with the rock underneath. The underground basaltic rock formations in Iceland, resulting from the country’s unique geological landscape, provide the perfect environment for this process, providing a permanent resolution for carbon dioxide storage.
“Through continued up-scaling of these technologies, a climate disaster can be avoided while at the same time establishing a new industrial pillar for the global economy,” adds Aradóttir. “This agreement between Climeworks, ON and Carbfix marks an important milestone towards that goal.”
Video Credit: CGTN Europe/YouTube.com
The Future of Carbon Capture and Storage
Globally, there are similar viable rock formations that might also offer storage solutions, some that are potential orders of magnitude larger than needed to achieve the goal of reversing climate change.
Collaborative efforts to scale-up carbon removal from the atmosphere such as these are essential if the aims of the Paris Climate Agreement - to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels - are to be reached. These technologies could be revolutionary in the battle against warming temperatures, which has a knock-on effect on the whole planet.
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References and Further Reading
Daniel, A. (2019) In Iceland, turning CO2 into rock could be a big breakthrough for carbon capture. [Online] The World. Available at: https://www.pri.org/stories/2019-05-03/iceland-turning-co2-rock-could-be-big-breakthrough-carbon-capture (Accessed 8 September 2020).
PES (2020) Milestone in the fight against Climate Change: Climeworks, ON Power and Carbfix lay the foundation to scale up carbon dioxide removal significantly to 4000 tons per year. [Online] Available at: https://www.pes.eu.com/renewable-news/milestone-in-the-fight-against-climate-change-climeworks-on-power-and-carbfix-lay-the-foundation-to-scale-up-carbon-dioxide-removal-significantly-to-4000-tons-per-year/ (Accessed 8 September 2020).