Swiss start-up Climeworks AG has partnered with Iceland’s Carbfix to develop the world’s largest plant that sucks carbon dioxide directly from air and deposits it deep underground to be mineralized started operating in Iceland on Wednesday, said the company behind the technology.
Last year, global CO2-emissions totalled 31.5 billion tonnes, according to the International Energy Agency.
Extracting carbon dioxide directly from atmosphere is viewed by scientists to be a technology vital to limit global warming.
The Orca plant, a reference to the Icelandic word for energy, consists of eight large containers similar in looks to those used in the shipping industry, which employ high-tech filters and fans to extract carbon dioxide.
The isolated carbon is then mixed with water and pumped deep underground, where it slowly turns into rock. Both technologies are powered by renewable energy sourced from a nearby geothermal power plant.
Direct air capture is still a fledgling and costly technology, but developers hope to drive down prices by scaling up as more companies and consumers look to reduce their carbon footprint.
There are currently 15 direct air capture plants operating worldwide, capturing more than 9,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, according to the IEA.
US oil firm Occidental is currently developing the largest direct-air-capture facility, to pull 1 million tonnes per year of carbon dioxide from the open air near some of its Texas oilfields.
Climeworks, which recently signed a 10-year carbon removal purchase agreement with major insurance firm Swiss Re (SRENH.S), also offers a subscription service, which allows consumers to pay for carbon removal through monthly payments.