Companies Race to Scale Up Carbon Storage

In the race to scale up carbon storage, Climeworks' new facilities in Iceland and Scotland lead the way.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

In the race to scale up carbon storage, Climeworks’ new facilities in Iceland and Scotland lead the way. Image Climeworks.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In the race to scale up carbon storage, Climeworks’ new facilities in Iceland and Scotland lead the way.

With global carbon dioxide levels still rising, removing vast amounts of CO2 from the air provides a critical tool to combat climate change. Ambitious new carbon removal projects using pioneering technology by Climeworks aim to scale up carbon storage and accelerate large-scale carbon extraction and storage.

What is Carbon Storage and Why it Matters

Carbon removal and sequestration comprises processes that actively capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide. The leading methods are direct air capture, reforestation, bioenergy with carbon capture, and mineralization. Alongside slashing emissions, we need to scale up carbon storage; meeting climate goals and offset residual outputs is essential. The IPCC reports removing gigatons of CO2 this century is vital to avoid catastrophic warming. Rapidly developing and deploying carbon removal technology is thus a priority.

Iceland Plant to Capture 1 Million Tons of CO2 Annually

Swiss firm Climeworks recently began construction on a landmark direct air capture and storage plant called Orca in Iceland. Orca will consist of eight carbon collection units powered by geothermal energy and able to capture 4000 tons of CO2 daily at full capacity. The plant’s modular design enables the company to scale up carbon storage by adding further collection units over time. Each collection module uses large fans to draw ambient air into contact with advanced filter material that selectively binds CO2 molecules, concentrating them for extraction and storage.

Built in partnership with Carbfix, Orca leverages Iceland’s uniquely favorable geology to mineralize and permanently store the captured carbon dioxide. The concentrated CO2 from the collectors will be dissolved in water and injected deep underground into the basalt bedrock below forming a solid rock structure. In the subsurface environment, over 95% of the injected CO2 rapidly mineralizes into inert rock carbonates within two years, securing it underground for many centuries.

Orca’s expected annual capture capacity of 1 million tons of CO2 will equal the emissions from roughly 790,000 cars. This unprecedented scale demonstrates direct air capture can viably and meaningfully help mitigate emissions at gigaton levels. The project cements Iceland’s leadership in carbon removal innovation and provides a pioneering model for large-scale carbon dioxide extraction and permanent sequestration worldwide.

Scotland Project to Extract 2 Million Tons of CO2 By 2030

Meanwhile, UK-based Storegga Geotechnologies recently partnered with Climeworks to develop carbon removal projects in Scotland. Their mission is to capture pure CO2 emissions from industrial sources near the eastern Scottish coast rather than directly from ambient air.

This involves installing Climeworks’ CO2 collectors at large stationary emitters like a fertilizer plant rather than deploying specialized direct air capture units. This year, Storegga and Climeworks aim to initiate extraction of 300,000 tons of CO2 annually from a fertilizer plant’s flue gas emissions using several collectors.

By 2030, the project could scale up carbon storage to 2 million tons extracted yearly by adding collectors at more industrial facilities along the Scottish coast. The captured carbon will be sent 60km offshore through an undersea pipeline for injection into porous saline aquifer reservoirs located more than 1km underwater beneath the North Sea.

Careful monitoring and transparency will verify permanent offshore storage in the aquifers. This facility will also create jobs and support Scotland’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2045.

A key difference from Orca is the reliance on capturing point-source emissions rather than direct air capture and the focus on offshore saline aquifer storage rather than mineralization. But both demonstrate the ability to scale up carbon storage.

More Methods in Development

In addition to direct air capture and offshore storage, other technologies that will scale up carbon storage include bioenergy with carbon capture, enhanced root crops, mineralization into construction materials, and agroforestry. Combining methods will accelerate our ability to remove legacy carbon at scale.

The Road Ahead

Continued innovation and deployment of carbon removal technology will be vital this decade and beyond. Projects like Orca and Scotland’s offshore storage do a lot to scale up carbon storage and pave the way for negative emissions. We must quickly build up these solutions through policies that support research, commercialization, and adoption. With workable technology available, we have no time to lose in cleansing the atmosphere and restoring a safe climate.

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