What is carbon removal technology?
First up, the most important thing we can do in our daily lives and business practices is to reduce our carbon emissions. But the science is clear: to keep global temperatures below 1.5°C, we must also actively remove carbon dioxide from the air. More specifically, we need to extract billions of tons of CO₂ from the atmosphere between now and 2050.
That’s where our carbon removal technology, direct air capture and storage (DAC+S), comes in. Carbon removal is the process of capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it away, so it can no longer contribute to global warming.
Carbon dioxide removal as a service
At Climeworks, we offer carbon dioxide removal for individuals and businesses who want to fight climate change. With our service, you can take action on behalf of the planet by permanently removing your unavoidable CO₂ emissions.
To achieve this, we combine our direct air capture technology with permanent underground storage (direct air capture & storage = DAC+S). Direct air capture, as the term implies, is a technology that captures carbon dioxide directly from the air — such as our Orca facility in Hellisheidi, Iceland. Permanent underground storage is what happens after we hand the air-captured CO₂ over to our storage partner — Carbfix. They transport the CO₂ deep underground, where it reacts with basalt rock through a natural process, transforms into stone, and remains for over 10,000 years. This makes our carbon dioxide removal service both effective and permanent.
But it’s not only Iceland where direct air capture and storage can take place. There’s potential for this carbon removal technology across the world, from the Middle East to North America. For example, we’re currently investigating a new opportunity for partnership with 44.01 in Oman.
Why is carbon removal important in the fight against global warming?
Let’s talk about unavoidable and historic emissions.
As mentioned, the most important thing any of us can do to stop global warming is to reduce our carbon footprints. According to the IPCC and Science Based Targets initiative, we must reduce our CO₂ emissions by at least 90% before 2050, but there will still be around 10% of unavoidable emissions remaining. Carbon removal is crucial to neutralize these emissions and keep global warming below 1.5°C.
Then there’s the matter of CO₂ emissions already released into the atmosphere — these are historic emissions. There are billions of tons of historic CO₂ emissions in our atmosphere, which must be removed so we can go beyond carbon neutrality and achieve net-negative emissions, i.e., removing more CO₂ than we produce. Carbon removal is the only way to achieve this and, in doing so, help restore balance to our climate.
But beyond unavoidable and historic emissions, carbon removal is also an important safeguard in the fight against climate change. If there’s a temporary temperature overshoot above 1.5°C, additional carbon removal could help us bring the temperature down again.
Is direct air capture and storage (DAC+S) the only carbon removal solution?
No, there are many more solutions available. Some are technological, like DAC+S, and some are nature-based, like afforestation, i.e., planting trees, which work to enhance our planet’s natural carbon sinks. There are pros and cons to all the available solutions, and they must be carefully evaluated as a matter of urgency: including how to scale them up and best use them in the fight against climate change. Because the fact is, we need all solutions to work together to maximize our chances of succeeding — nature and technology hand in hand.
But why are we particularly excited about DAC+S? As a carbon removal technology, DAC+S has great potential. It’s safe, scalable, permanent, measurable, efficient, and natural.
Do you still have open questions? Learn more about:
The difference between DAC+S and CCS: Direct air capture and storage (DAC+S) is often confused with carbon capture and storage (CCS), but the two are very different. CCS captures CO₂ emissions at a point source, for example, a smoke stack at a power plant. The idea is to offset carbon emissions as they’re being released into the atmosphere — but offsets won’t get us to the net-negative emissions we need to keep global warming under control. DAC+S works instead to remove unavoidable and historic CO₂ emissions already released into the atmosphere. When combined with emissions reductions, it could help us reach net-negative emissions and rebalance our climate.
How does geological storage of CO₂ work: At our Orca plant in Iceland, the geological storage of our air-captured CO₂ is handled by Carbfix using the Carbfix method. First, the CO₂ is dissolved in water, a sparkling water of sorts, before it’s injected into the subsurface, where it reacts with the rock to form solid carbonate minerals. For more information on this accelerated natural process, check out the Carbfix website.
Where can DAC+S be used: There are two requirements for a direct air capture and storage plant — renewable energy and CO₂ storage possibilities. Iceland, where our Orca plant is located (and our future plant, Mammoth), offers ideal conditions due to the abundance of renewable energy and basalt rock, an ideal geological formation for storing CO₂. But DAC+S can be applied anywhere with renewable energy and geological storage available. As mentioned, we’re currently testing Oman as an option, with 44.01, and Norway, with Northern Lights.