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4,000 tonnes of CO2 to turn into stone each year

31.08.2020 - 10:21
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Carbfix and Orka náttúrunnar have agreed a deal to work with Switzerland’s Climeworks; a company specialising in the permanent removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The three companies have agreed to work together to build a facility at Hellisheiði in southwest Iceland which will pump CO2 down into basalt rock, where it calcifies into rock. This process is already well-established by Carbfix, but the new deal will see its capacity increase significantly. 

A major scaling-up

The new facility is expected to sequester around 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year—locking it away and helping in the fight against catastrophic climate change.  

Berglind Rán Ólafsdóttir, CEO of Orka náttúrunnar, says the project marks a watershed moment in climate matters and that the technique pioneered in Iceland could prove to be an important tool in the global fight against climate change. 

She says engineers from Orka náttúrunnar and Carbfix have been working for three years with the Swiss innovation company Climeworks, which has a base on the geothermal field at ON’s Hellisheiðarvirkjun power station. 

International cooperation

The contract with Climeworks shows how cooperation and innovation across national borders can create solutions that could help solve one of the biggest challenges of our time, she says. 

The equipment and techniques developed by Carbfix and Climeworks will be integrated together in the biggest joint venture of its type to date, and will include specially designed new technology as well. The power needed to drive it will come directly from the geothermal power station next door. 

Edda Sif Pind Aradóttir, CEO of Carbfix, says that while a single project like this cannot solve the climate crisis, the technology being developed could be used around the world and could be an important part of meeting Paris Agreement targets. 

The greatest emphasis is being placed on reducing emissions from energy and industry, and phasing fossil fuels out of transportation. “At the same time, it is also important to reduce the concentration of CO2 already in the atmosphere, and especially when it comes to the middle of the century, the technology that Climeworks is developing needs to be ready to be deployed on a very large scale,” Edda says. 

Geographically liberating

Carbfix has been taking carbon dioxide directly from Hellisheiðarviarkjun’s emissions, but the Climeworks process, called Direct Air Capture, takes carbon dioxide directly from the open air, capturing greenhouse gases that are already in the atmosphere. The carbfix method of pumping that dissolved CO2 down into basalt, so that it calcifies and remains trapped forever as rock, works equally well for both capture methods. 

Berglind says: “We are now at an exciting crossroads, because the project is leaving the experimental stage, where we have been experimenting by pumping small amounts down into the ground. Now, an increased amount will be pumped down, which is an important step.” 

“It has already been proved that this works, and the process could become an important tool to keep on top of catastrophic climate change, which is something we are all starting to think about now, luckily,” Berglind adds. 

Edda Sif says the goal of the project is to massively scale up the use of the technology in Iceland and overseas: “What’s fun about this collaboration is that it decouples the source of the emissions from where we deal with the carbon dioxide. Because it really doesn’t make any difference, if we look at the earth as a whole, where we release the carbon dioxide out into the atmosphere.” 

“The climate crisis is a global problem and therefore it is important that a technique has been developed to clean the atmosphere, because now it will be possible to use land and [suitable] bedrock, despite the fact that they may be in areas without significant carbon dioxide emitters,” Edda Sif explains. 

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