World’s biggest factory to suck carbon from the sky turns on in Iceland
The world’s first and largest factory to capture and convert carbon dioxide from the air into stone began operations in Iceland on Wednesday.
The Orca plant set up by Swiss startup Climeworks AG to reduce the effects of the greenhouse gas on the planet represents a milestone in the direct air capture industry.
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While Climeworks has built 16 installations across Europe, the Orca plant is the only one that permanently captures and stores CO2 rather than recycling it.
According to Climeworks, every year the factory has a capacity to capture 4,000 tons of CO2, which is safely and permanently stored via a chemical process developed by Carbfix, an academic-industrial partnership in Iceland.
In this process, CO2 captured from the atmosphere is mineralised underground and converted into stones.
The air-captured CO2 is mixed with water and pumped deep underground, where it is trapped in stone through a natural mineralization process that takes under two years, Carbfix noted.
While the plant is capable of capturing only a tiny fraction of the global annual emissions of about 35 billion tons of CO2, the nonprofit believes it is a steppingstone for its expansion to megaton removal capacity by the second part of this decade.
The factory is the first direct air capture and storage service with a validated process – awarded mid-June 2021 by independent third-party DNV.
With a recent report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warning that the world could see more frequent extreme weather events in the years to come due to global warming, experts have stressed on the importance of reducing greenhouse gas levels drastically and removing carbon dioxide emissions from the air permanently.
Construction of the Orca plant began in May 2020 based on advanced modular technology, Climateworks says, adding that innovative container-size compact air collector units were stacked together to build the factory.
Due to its strategic location adjacent to ON Power’s Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Plant, Orca runs fully on renewable energy.