The Swiss company Climeworks has launched a pilot plant in Hellisheidi, Iceland, that can capture carbon dioxide directly from the air to be pumped into underground rock formations, effectively locking the greenhouse gas away for good.
The project, called CarbFix, has developed a way to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, pump it deep underground, and transform it into stone.
Edda Sif Aradóttir, project manager, explained the significance of the venture to RÚV: “Right now, for the first time anywhere in the world, we are extracting carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere through the carbon collectors. Then we take this purified carbon dioxide and pump it down into the ground and thus remove it permanently from the atmosphere.”
First, large collectors extract carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. The gas is dissolved in water and pumped into the ground, to a depth of up to two kilometres (1.25 miles). There, the carbon dioxide turns into stone rather than polluting the atmosphere.
The project is a collaboration between Reykjavík Energy and Swiss company Climeworks, with participation from the University of Iceland, Columbia University in New York, and the French National Centre for Scientific Research. The collectors will be active at Hellisheiði for a one-year trial and in that time are expected to remove 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Annual emmisions, however, amount to 30-40 gigatonnes worldwide.
“It is quite clear that if we are to achieve climate goals, then we have to take steps such as extracting carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere as we’re doing now. This will undoubtedly be one of the solutions,” stated Sandra Ósk Snæbjörnsdóttir, engineer at Reykjavík Energy.