In September, Climeworks flipped the switch on Orca, the largest plant to date that is designed to remove carbon dioxide from the air. 

The facility, outside Reykjavik, Iceland, can capture 4,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. Large fans suck air through a filter, where materials bind with CO2 molecules. The company’s partner, Carbfix, then mixes the carbon dioxide with water and pumps it underground, where it reacts with basalt rock and eventually turns into stone. The facility runs entirely on carbon-free electricity, mainly from a nearby geothermal power plant. 

Each module at Orca is made up of a dozen carbon removal units. Air passes through grates and over a filter that traps carbon dioxide with adsorbent chemicals. When the filters are full, grates close across the front of the unit and pipes pump heat into the enclosed space, releasing CO2 from the filters.The carbon dioxide is then pumped to an area where it’s prepared for storage before the gates open again to restart the process.KRISTJáN MAACK

To be sure, 4,000 tons isn’t that much. It’s less than the annual emissions of 900 cars. And it’s a tiny fraction of the billions of tons of carbon dioxide the world will likely need to pull out of the atmosphere to prevent global warming from soaring past 2 °C over preindustrial levels, according to a variety of studies.

 Orca is made of modules that can be combined in different ways, making the plant easier to replicate around the world. Climeworks put its first plant in Iceland in part to take advantage of the country’s abundant geothermal power, so the facility can minimize the emissions it generates in the process of capturing carbon dioxide.
material covering fans at orca plant
On the back of each module, fans blow filtered air back into the atmosphere. Flexible covers on the fans ensure that loose bits from the filters aren’t blown away by the strong Icelandic winds. These covers will likely be needed just for the first year, while the units are tested.
Carbfix employee holds basalt rockRead More


By: James Temple, Casey Crownhart
Title: Carbon removal factory
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Published Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2022 09:55:00 +0000

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