Swiss company Climeworks has begun operating Orca, the world’s largest direct air capture facility, in Iceland.
Designed to filter CO2 directly from the ambient air through an adsorption-desorption process, this first-of-a-kind facility is powered by renewable energy from ON Power’s Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Plant, and it heralds a landmark moment for the development of so-called negative emissions technologies, reports The Engineer.
According to Climeworks, the new plant should be able to capture upto 4000 tons of CO2 every year, which will then be trapped in stone using a natural mineralisation process developed by project partner Carbfix.
The direct air capture facility works by using giant fans to draw air into the collectors. This is passed over a highly selective filter material that capture the CO2.
Once the filter material is full, the collector is closed and the temperature increased to between 80 and 100 °C.
It is at this point that the carbon dioxide is released from the filter, mixed with water, and then pumped deep underground where the CO2 reacts with the basalt rock and turns into stone within a few years.
According to Climeworks, the Orca plant is based on a modular system formed of stackable container-size collector units. This makes it relatively easy to build similar systems at other sites and then scale them up.
Constructed in under 15 months, Orca consists of eight such collector containers, with an annual capture capacity of 500 tons each.
According to Climeworks co-CEO and co-founder Jan Wurzbacher, the company is presently targeting megaton CO2 removal capacity by the end of the decade.
“Orca, as a milestone in the direct air capture industry, has provided a scalable, flexible and replicable blueprint for Climeworks’ future expansion,” says Wurzbacher.
“With this success, we are prepared to rapidly ramp up our capacity in the next years. 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.’’
Image and content: Climeworks/The Engineer