May 23, 2024

The Queens County Citizen

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Global CO2 capture capacity has just quadrupled, enabling the world's largest “pollution gap”.

La capacité mondiale à aspirer le CO2 vient de quadrupler Le plus grand aspirateur de pollution du monde entre en marche couv

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A giant “pollution vacuum cleaner” called the Mammoth was recently put into service in Iceland. Designed by Swiss start-up Climworks, it is the largest CO2 capture plant ever built. Climworks hopes to eliminate millions of tons of carbon dioxide by 2030, increasing the efficiencies of its previous model tenfold.

While we expect Orca to remain the world's largest atmospheric CO₂ capture site for a few more years, start-up ClimbWorks has commissioned its successor, even more ambitious than ever: Mammoth. This second power station is located in the center of a moss-covered solid lava field, a few kilometers from Reykjavík, Iceland, a few hundred meters from Orca.

Orca is built with eight superimposed containers (the vacuum parts of a machine that extracts carbon from the air) 10 meters high, while Mammoth stands out in the middle of this desert with twelve containers. The collection infrastructure started ventilating the air last Wednesday. It works through direct air capture (DAC), using a chemical process to draw in air to extract carbon dioxide.

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36,000 tonnes of CO₂ is absorbed per year

Construction of Mammoth will begin in June 2022. Today the plant is running but not fully completed. Climworks plans to install another 72 collection containers in addition to the 12 already installed by the end of the year. The gas captured by these containers is dissolved in water before being injected underground (at a depth of 700 meters), where it naturally and gradually (over about two years) turns into basalt. Thus, the carbon is permanently “trapped”.

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To complete this “sequestration” process, Climworks partnered with the Icelandic company Corbix. When it comes to powering the entire operation, Climworks on Power relies on energy from a geothermal plant.

According to ClimWorks, 10,000 tons of CO₂ are captured and stored each year worldwide, including 4,000 by Orca. However, once Mammoth is fully operational, the plant will be able to remove 36,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year. This is equivalent to removing approximately 7,800 gasoline cars from the road (per year). ” We went from a few milligrams of CO₂ captured in our lab 15 years ago to a few kilograms, then tons and then thousands of tons. “, says John Wurzbacher, founder and co-director of ClimWorks.

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DCA, a controversial technology?

Interest in CO₂ capture is growing, but some world leaders say it's a controversial technology. For the latter, it is often a very expensive and energy-intensive technique, and its effectiveness on a large scale is still to be proven.

However, several projects (about twenty) developed by Climworks and other start-ups make it possible to reach 10 million tons of capture by 2030. For example, in Texas, a large power plant called Stratos is under construction. Stratos is expected to capture 500,000 tons of carbon a year, according to Occidental, the oil company developing it.

For every tonne of CO₂ stored, Climworks hopes to generate a carbon credit, allowing customers such as Lego, Microsoft and H&M to offset their greenhouse gas emissions. So far, the company has not indicated the cost of each ton of carbon captured, but it has indicated that it is around $1,000 per ton, the latter number generally considered a critical standard so that the technology can be implemented.

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