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World's largest carbon capture plant will soon operate in Iceland

Friday, September 3rd 2021, 10:04 am - Captured carbon dioxide is processed and then mixed with hot water so it can be pumped deep into the ground where it will be permanently stored.

Climeworks, a company that owns 14 direct air capture facilities across the globe, is set to launch its largest plant to date on September 8th.

The plant, named Orca, is being built in Hellisheidi, Iceland and the company says that it will be the largest direct air capture and storage plant in existence.

Orca is estimated to capture 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year and the company says it will be the world’s biggest climate-positive facility. Carbfix, an Icelandic company that converts carbon dioxide into stone underground, will permanently store the captured carbon in the ground.

2 Orca Credit Climeworks Climeworks says that Orca will become the world's biggest climate-positive facility to date. (Climeworks)

Orca’s eight collector containers are sustainably powered by the geothermal Hellisheidi Power Station and use a two-step process to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

A fan draws air into the collector and then a highly selective filter material captures carbon dioxide until it is full. The collector is then closed and its contents are heated to a temperature between 80–100°C, which concentrates and purifies the carbon dioxide before it is permanently stored.

Carbfix mixes this concentrated carbon dioxide with hot water and then pumps it deep below the Earth’s surface where it reacts with basalt rock and slowly turns into stone over a period of several years.

CO2 turned into stone credit Carbfix Carbon dioxide is turned into stone that will be stored permanently underground. (Carbfix)

“Orca demonstrates that Climeworks is able to scale carbon dioxide removal capacity by a factor of around 80 in 3–4 years. These developments will lead to several million tons of direct air capture and storage capacity by the end of this decade,” the company states on their website.

A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that carbon capture technology will be needed to mitigate severe impacts from climate change. The IPCC says removing carbon from the atmosphere through technology can reduce global warming, reverse surface-level ocean acidification, and influence water availability and quantity, food production, and biodiversity levels.

Credit ON Power The geothermal Hellisheidi Power Station in Iceland. (ON Power)

Even if all greenhouse gas emissions ceased today, atmospheric temperatures will still continue to rise because the emissions that have already been released will linger for hundreds of years. This is why experts say that carbon capture technology will be essential for removing historic emissions.

While the world waits in anticipation for further development and deployment of carbon capture technology, scientists say that expanding natural carbon sinks, such as forests, are essential for protecting the environment and the planet’s ability to manage greenhouse gases.

Thumbnail credit: Climeworks

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