Largest air carbon capture plant in the world goes live

Swiss company Climeworks has taken a giant leap in the fight against climate change by opening Mammoth, the world’s largest carbon capture plant in Iceland. This technological marvel dwarfs its predecessor, Orca, which could remove 4,000 tons of CO2 annually. Mammoth boasts a tenfold increase, capturing a staggering 36,000 tons of CO2 from the air each year, according to The Washington Post.

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Unlike recycled CO2, the captured carbon in Mammoth isn’t cycled back into use. Instead, it finds a permanent home deep underground, cleverly stored in volcanic rock formations. This ingenious solution utilizes Iceland’s geothermal energy for power and cleverly leverages the geological location for long-term storage. The captured CO2 reacts with minerals in the basalt rock, forming stable crystals that effectively lock away the greenhouse gas.

While impressive, Mammoth is just a single step in a much larger journey. To achieve “net zero” emissions by 2050, Climeworks founder Jan Wurzbacher emphasizes the need to remove “between six and sixteen billion tons of CO2 annually,” as reported by CBS News. This highlights the challenge – Mammoth, despite its record-breaking size, can only manage 0.0006% of the minimum required annual removal. While other carbon capture plants exist, collectively they haven’t made a significant dent in the problem.

Wurzbacher recognizes this and urges collaboration. Climeworks has set ambitious goals, aiming to capture millions of tons per year by 2030 and reach a billion by 2050. Scaling up this technology globally, according to Climeworks’ chief technology officer Carlos Haertel, requires political backing and a concerted effort.

The good news? The US government is taking action. The Biden administration recently pledged $4 billion to kickstart the industry domestically, allocating $1.2 billion specifically for two large-scale projects. Additionally, the Department of Energy’s “Carbon Negative Shot” program aims to foster affordable carbon capture technology.

Carbon capture methods are diverse. Some solutions involve capturing CO2 with limestone blocks, while others utilize high-altitude balloons for freezing and trapping the gas. Nature-based solutions like large-scale forest restoration are also on the table. Companies like Apple and Goldman Sachs are already exploring these possibilities.