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The CO2 capturing facility

The CO2 capturing facility

Work begins on Mammoth, the world's largest CO2 direct air capture plant in Iceland.

By Andrew Joseph,; Image courtesy of Climeworks

If there, why not here?

As part of a global initiative to reduce carbon emissions by 2030, the Swiss company Climeworks has just broken ground on its second direct air capture (DAC) facility, named Mammoth, in Iceland (see artist's illustration above of the proposed finished facility).

It plans, with the two DAC plants, to remove gigatons of CO2 from the Earth’s atmosphere every year starting, it hopes, by the year 2050, as the means to affect climate change.

Climeworks’ initial DAC work consisted of a pilot plant switched on in 2017 after work with partner CarbFix, a carbon storage company, who had demonstrated in 2016 that CO2 can be mineralized in fewer than two years—instead of the 100s or 1,000s of years it would take naturally.

The success of that pilot plant was able to safely store 12.5 tons of CO2 every three months, which then allowed Climeworks to construct and turn on its first DAC facility in 2020.

That first plant, named Orca, has a capacity of capturing 4,000 tons of CO2 per year, and thanks to its modular design of stackable units, it can be scaled up as required.

Now with this second Climeworks DAC facility having broken ground, its modular architecture will allow it to capture as much as 36,000 tons of CO2 yearly.

Construction on Mammoth is expected to take up to two years. CarbFix will store all captured carbon after operations begin. As with Orca, the renewable energy will be used to run the direct air capture and storage systems.

Jan Wurzbacher, co-founder and co-CEO of Climeworks said: "Today is a very important day for Climeworks and for the industry as construction begins on our newest, large-scale direct air capture and storage plant.

Continuing, Wurzbacher added that "With Mammoth, we can leverage our ability to quickly multiply our modular technology and significantly scale our operations. We are building the foundation for a climate relevant gigaton-scale capacity, and we are starting deployment now to remain on track for this."

The US federal government has also recently announced its intention to pour billions of dollars into DAC research. Around the world, Australia and the UK are partnering to try other carbon eaters such as solar power and carbon-munching algae.

Seemingly in the lead in Iceland, Climeworks is looking to scale up its carbon capture to the megaton level by the end of the 2020s before its scale up to the gigaton level by 2050.

“Based on most successful scale-up curves, reaching gigaton by 2050 means delivering at multi-megaton scale by 2030," said Christoph Gebald, co-founder and co-CEO of Climeworks. "Nobody has ever built what we are building in DAC, and we are both humble and realistic that the most certain way to be successful is to run the technology in the real world as fast as possible. Our fast deployment cycles will enable us to have the most robust operations at multi-megaton scale.”

Earth’s population is currently responsible for producing over 30 billion tons of CO2 each year, which means that while ClimeWork's DAC facilities seem like an idea whose time has arrived, a herd of Mammoth and pods of Orca will be required to make real inroads at reversing the GHG trend.

Besides asking Canadian farmers to reduce and or desist in producing carbon dioxide and other GHGs, what is Canada’s role moving forward going to be?

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