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Climeworks launches world’s first commercial plant to capture atmospheric carbon dioxide

Climeworks has launched the world’s first commercial plant that captures atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) for supply and sale to a customer. The Swiss direct air capture company launched the commercial-scale Direct Air Capture (DAC) plant, featuring its patented technology that filters CO2 from ambient air. The plant is now supplying 900 tonnes of CO2 annually to a nearby greenhouse to help grow vegetables.

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Climeworks commercial-scale Direct Air Capture (DAC) carbon capture plant installed on the roof of a waste recovery facility in Hinwil, Switzerland. The captured CO2 is piped to the greenhouses in the background (photo courtesy Julia Dunlop). Climeworks commercial-scale Direct Air Capture (DAC) carbon capture plant installed on the roof of a waste recovery facility in Hinwil, Switzerland. The captured CO2 is piped to the greenhouses in the background (photo courtesy Julia Dunlop).

Founded by engineers, Christoph Gebald and Jan Wurzbacher, Climeworks AG has developed its technology to capture atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) with a filter, using mainly low-grade heat as an energy source. In Hinwil, Switzerland,  the DAC plant has been installed on the roof of a waste recovery facility – operated by the municipal administration union KEZO – with its waste heat powering the Climeworks DAC plant.

During the Climeworks capture process, air is drawn into the plant and the CO2 within the air is chemically deposited on the filter surface with CO2-free air released back to the atmosphere. Once the filter is saturated, the CO2 is then isolated at a temperature of about 100 °C.

The pure captured CO2 gas can then be sold to customers in key markets, including commercial agriculture, food and beverage industries, the energy sector, and the automotive industry. The continuous cycle is then ready to start again by reusing the filter which, according to the company, lasts for several thousand cycles.

Negative emissions to meet the two-degree target

In Hinwil, Climeworks provides a continuous supply of CO2 through an underground pipeline to a greenhouse 400 metres away, operated by Gebrüder Meier Primanatura AG, to assist with growing vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers.

By securing this supply agreement, Climeworks has ensured the Hinwil operation is the world’s first direct air capture plant with a commercial customer – an important step for the future of negative emissions technologies.

The Hinwil plant will operate as a three-year demonstration project in cooperation with the partners Gebrüder Meier and KEZO, and with a contribution towards non-amortizable costs by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE).

Highly scalable negative emission technologies are crucial if we are to stay below the two-degree target of the international community. The DAC-technology provides distinct advantages to achieve this aim and is perfectly suitable to be combined with underground storage. We’re working hard to reach the goal of filtering one per cent of global CO2 emissions by 2025. To achieve this, we estimate around 250 000 DAC-plants like the one in Hinwil are necessary, said Christoph Gebald, Co-founder and Managing Director of Climeworks.

Raw material for beverages, fuel, and materials

The CO2 captured by Climeworks can be used to carbonate beverages or produce climate-neutral fuels and other materials. Capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide locally for industrial uses enables customers to reduce their emissions and lessen their dependence on fossil fuels, as currently most industrial CO2 is transported from fossil point sources via truck to industries on-site.

In comparison to other carbon capture technologies, a modular Climeworks plant can be employed almost anywhere. In the coming months, Climeworks plans to launch additional commercial pilot projects in key target markets and wants to test its technology’s potential to deliver negative emissions by combining it with underground storage.

With the energy and economic data from the plant we can make reliable calculations for other, larger projects and draw on the practical experience we have gained, said Jan Wurzbacher, Co-founder and Managing Director of Climeworks.

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