carbon capture planr

Carbon capture project could contribute to carbon cutting targets

Image credit: Climeworks

Could carbon capture come to the rescue in the attempt to curb global warming? One Swiss company is making the first, admittedly small, step in developing this technology.

Greenhouse gas emissions are falling, but not at a rate that will prevent global warming according to United Nations forecasts. With America turning its back on the Paris agreement, the chances of limiting global warming to under 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels seems remote, but rather than rely on emissions reduction, a project is under way to take existing carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the air.

Climeworks claims to have developed the first commercial climate capture plant, a system that sucks air through a filter that chemically binds the CO2 along with water, and releases ‘clean’ air to the atmosphere.

The filter is made of porous granulates modified with amines and the bond it forms with the CO2 is dissolved at a temperature of 100°C. The concentrated CO2 can then be collected and sold on for non-emission creating applications such as carbonated drinks, agriculture or even green fuels. Alternatively it could be buried.

A $23m prototype plant near Zurich has now been in operation for two months and is predicted to have extracted 900 tonnes by the end of the year. Each tonne of gas costs about $600 to extract, and it is then sold on, for a loss, as fertiliser to local greenhouses to grow tomatoes and cucumbers. The plant is modular and can be extended to up to 36 CO2 filter units, which would then capture nearly five tonnes of CO2 per day.

Director and founder of Climeworks, Jan Wurzbacher, claimed the company has planet-altering ambitions by cutting costs to about $100 a tonne and capturing one per cent of global man-made carbon emissions a year by 2025, which would require it to capture around 10,000,000,000 tonnes.

However, with the European penalty for CO2 emissions currently only five euros per tonne, even Climeworks' ambitious cost targets will not persuade polluters to adopt this technology until the regulatory environment changes, although at such cost levels the CO2 could be sold at a profit.

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