The world has to reach peak greenhouse gas emissions before 2025 to avoid catastrophic climate change. Swiss company Climeworks has been at the forefront of the carbon removal scene. With its technology to capture carbon dioxide from the air, the World’s largest carbon capturing plant can currently capture about 4,000 tons of CO2 each year. Now the goal is to reach more than a million tons of CO2 per year by 2030.
The technology developed by Climeworks simply and effectively captures CO2 from air using giant ‘vacuum cleaners’. The gas is then mixed with water and pumped 700 metres underground. When it comes into contact with basaltic rock, the CO2 turns safely and permanently into stone. Iceland is the location of a pilot plant currently deploying this technology. The CO2 captured by Climeworks is also suitable for other industrial processes, such as manufacturing carbonated water or fertiliser. The Zurich-based company, also active in Italy and Iceland, aims to capture 1% of the world’s CO2 emissions by 2025. The site in Hinwil in the canton of Zurich is already capturing up to 900 tonnes of CO2 per year. Founded in 2009 by two engineers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ), Climeworks has partnered with the Swiss mineral water company Valser – based in the famous Roman thermal resort of Vals – to supply some of the CO2 needed for their sparkling water. In the plant in Italy, the CO2 is used in combination with hydrogen to produce renewable energy. Other plants are in the pipeline. Instead of just reducing CO2 emissions from a plant or company, Climeworks’ technology actually enables “negative” emissions by removing CO2 from the atmosphere.