ENERGY WATCH #1 - October 9, 2018
Global warming? Climeworks “offers everyone the opportunity to remove their CO2 from the air!”
by Karel Beckman
Limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities”, the IPCC has said in its much-discussed new report on global warming published on 8 October.
According to the IPCC, “Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero around 2050.”
“This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air”, said the IPCC. In other words: if we overshoot the 1.5°C target, we would need to rely on CO2 removal techniques.
How feasible is it to rely on removing CO2 from the air? According to the IPCC, “the effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development.”
However, Swiss company Climeworks is more optimistic: it published an emailed press release on the same day announcing that its Direct Air Capture and Storage technology “works, is highly scalable, and offers everyone the opportunity to reverse their own CO2 emissions”.
According to the press release, the CarbFix consortium, which includes Icelandic utility Reykjavik Energy and Swiss company Climeworks, and receives funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, has successfully tested Direct Air Capture and Storage (DACS) technology in Iceland, and will now start the project-planning phase for expanding their DACS capacity.
“With Direct Air Capture being the latest disruptive Negative Emissions Technology, climate scientists needed a proof of concept for the promising DACS technology”, said Climeworks, “a milestone that Climeworks and Reykjavik Energy, the pioneers in capturing CO2 from air and storing it underground, have now achieved with its successful year-long demonstration within the CarbFix2 project.”
“Today, we have a clear message for climate science and the rest of the world: Direct Air Capture and Storage not only works but it’s safe, permanent and achievable on an industrial scale,” said Christoph Gebald, co-founder of Climeworks. “From 2019, we will offer individuals, countries, businesses and institutions from all over the world the unique opportunity to reverse their past, present or future emissions permanently and safely with Direct Air Capture.”
The global potential of DACS technology for the permanent removal of atmospheric CO2 is enormous, said Climeworks. “Not only is the land and water-use very low for DACS, but Climeworks plants can be implemented anywhere where basalt rock (or other CO2 storage possibilities) and renewable energy sources are available. More importantly, DACS plants do not require any fertile land for operation creating no strain on ecosystems.”
“The geological conditions for safe and permanent sequestration also exist outside of Iceland in regions of the world such as the USA, the Middle East and Africa.”
“The storage capacity is such that, in theory, basalts could permanently hold the entire bulk of CO2 emissions derived from burning all fossil fuel on Earth,” says Sandra Snaebjornsdottir, a geologist working for CarbFix.
Around 25 kilometers from Reykjavik, the CarbFix consortium has, over the past year, “proved that the combination of capturing CO2 from air and subterranean sequestration works – even in complicated climatic conditions. As part of the CarbFix2 Horizon 2020 project, the partners called on local engineering expertise to overcome challenging conditions like freezing temperatures combined with high humidity, or the high concentration of sulphur in the air.”
“After an initially steep learning curve, we eventually ran the plant without failures for several months,” reported co-founder Jan Wurzbacher.
“CO2 captured during the pilot phase was mixed with water, using the CarbFix process, and pumped into 700-metre-deep layers of basalt rock. There, the CO2 solution reacts with the underground basalt and turns into white, calcareous and harmless calcite, which fills the pores of the rock. Within two years, the CO2 is thus permanently and safely sequestered.”
Thanks to its successful “proof of concept” with the CarbFix2 pilot plant, Reykjavik Energy, ON Power and Climeworks are now planning an expansion of their DACS capacity.
“At sites like ON Power’s Geothermal Park in Hellisheidi we have the potential to remove several hundred thousand to even millions of tons of CO2 annually from the atmosphere,” said Edda Sif Aradóttir, Deputy Managing Director at Reykjavik Energy. “Together with ON Power and Climeworks we are currently planning the next scale-up steps for further increase DACS capacity at our site.”