Climeworks – Carbon capture series

This post is part of our carbon capture series. Previous posts: Charm Industrial.

Mission

The swiss company Climeworks is developing a direct air capture method in order to filter out CO2 from the air. Their vision is to remove 1% of carbon dioxide and inspire

Founders

The two founders Jan Wurzbacher and Christoph Gebald met during their studies at ETH Zurich. They started working on direct air capture during their master thesis in 2007 and after first prototypes came to life in a lab in 2009, Climeworks was registered as a company in Switzerland. After the development of a new modular CO2 collector and the production of a working prototype, Climeworks established a production infrastructure with a capacity to manufacture more than 100 of these collectors per year.

How direct air capture works. Source: Climeworks

First direct air capture plant

In 2017, Climeworks was able to open the world’s first commercial-scale direct air capture plant dubbed “Capricorn” in Hinwil, Switzerland.The plant uses waste heat from the waste incineration facility. The capture process involves chemical deposition on a filter surface and once the filter is saturated, the CO2 will be isolated at a temperature of 100 °C. The captured carbon dioxide is transported to nearby greenhouses. The gas is injected into the greenhouse atmosphere in order to enhance the growth of vegetables and lettuce by up to 20 percent.

Climeworks direct air capture in Hinwil, Switzerland, Copyright Climeworks – Photo by Julia Dunlop

Next big thing: Orca

Climeworks next big thing is Orca. Orca is the name of their new plant to remove CO2 from the air by their direct air capture and put into permanent underground storage in a joint venture with Carbfix. The CO2 mineralizes deep underground and is safely and permanently stored as stone. Once the construction of Orca is finished and put into production, it will remove 4000 tons of CO2 per year. Orca is built near a geothermic power plant in Hellisheidi, Iceland and will be the biggest climate positive plant in operation. Climeworks declined to disclose Orca’s expected lifetime in years but stated that all units are modular and can therefore be replaced or repaired or renewed as needed. The only consumable part is the filter and is replaced as needed.

The carbon dioxide removal purchased by individuals such as Chris Larsen or companies such as Stripe will be performed by Orca. Additional plants of newer technological generations are already part of Climeworks’ scale-up roadmap. These will enable further purchases in the future.

Build Up Process Hall Credit: Climeworks
Orca collectors. Credit: Climeworks
Orca collectors. Credit: Climeworks

And after Orca?

Climeworks has a detailed scale-up roadmap in place and is planning to move into mass production by 2025. Climeworks’ growing customer base, consisting of private individuals and businesses, is already supporting the scale-up, and making the removal of historic CO2 a reality. More of these pioneering companies and individuals are needed and part of Climeworks’ scale-up roadmap is focused on attracting new customers and generating greater demand for carbon dioxide removal.

Notable customers

The U.S. payment provider Stripe has purchased CDR (carbon dioxide removal) for their Stripe Climate campaign, allowing Stripe’s customers to participate in carbon removal by giving a percentage of reveneues directly to companies such as Climeworks. Other noteworthy companies include the online shopping infrastructure giant Shopify, the premium car maker Audi (1000 tons) and Microsoft (1400tons).

You can follow Climeworks on Twitter.

Disclosure: The parent company of NetZero.aero, Tiny Ventures LLC is a Pioneer at Climeworks. Additionaly, Tiny Ventures donates 1% of all revenue collected through the payment provider Stripe to their Stripe Climate project. Some of the funds donated via Stripe has been used to purchase CDR performed by Climeworks.