The Switzerland-based company Climeworks has now officially begun extracting carbon dioxide from the air in Iceland and sequestering it underground where it is expected to slowly turn to stone, as part of a pilot demonstration of the technology.
The project — being undertaken by Climeworks in partnership with Reykjavik Energy — certainly isn’t cheap, it should be realized, but is simply meant to serve as an example of the possibilities. Every ton of carbon dioxide will cost several hundred dollars to sequester, reportedly.
“This is small scale, but the main reason is to prepare a scale-up” of the tech, explained Jan Wurzbacher, the director and founder of Climeworks. Wurzbacher noted that this project represented the first to pair carbon capture with carbon burial anywhere in the world.
“Climeworks plans to suck 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over a year — roughly the greenhouse gas emissions of a single American family — using special fans and chemicals in the European Union-backed project. The gas will be dissolved in water and piped about 1,000 meters (3,300 ft) underground, where Reykjavik Energy says carbon reacts with basaltic rock and turns to stone,” Reuters reports.
“Edda Sif Aradottir, the project’s manager at Reykjavik Energy, which has injected carbon from the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant into the ground since 2007, said most has turned to stone within two years, centuries faster than previously estimated.”
This new project follows the beginning of operations back in May at Climeworks’ project in Switzerland which draws carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and into local greenhouses.
While current project costs are too high to even be close to economic viability, as the years go by and temperatures continue climbing, support may well arise. I’ll note here that I’m skeptical that such approaches will ever make much sense, or that the money will ever truly be there for widescale deployment of the tech — it would be far better to simply reduce greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible than to rely on exotic engineering solutions.
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