What is direct air capture?

Our direct air capture (DAC) technology is one of the key technological solutions to fight climate change. It captures CO₂ directly from the air, reducing the atmospheric concentration of CO₂, by only using renewable energy, energy-from-waste, or other waste heat as energy sources.

How does it work?

It is a three-step process

  1. Air is drawn in through a fan located inside the collector. Once sucked in, it passes through a filter located inside the collector which traps the carbon dioxide particles.
  2. When the filter is completely full of CO₂, the collector closes, and the temperature rises to about 100°C - a very low temperature if we think that it is the same temperature that it takes to boil water to make a cup of tea!
  3. In this way, it causes the filter to release the CO₂ and we can finally collect it.
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Why do we need direct air capture?

The latest IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) report clearly states that urgent climate action is needed to halve emissions by 2030. To do so, we must first drastically reduce emissions and, to give the world a chance to limit global warming to 1.5°C, we must remove legacy CO₂ emissions from the air and store them deep underground in a permanent and safe way.

That’s why we combine our direct air capture technology with CO₂ storage.

Why do we combine direct air capture with storage?

Direct air capture (DAC) is a technology able to capture carbon dioxide directly from the air and, when it is combined with storage (DAC+S), it is possible to physically remove the CO₂ from the atmosphere, as it is pumped deep underground safely and permanently. This technology can be used anywhere in the world and when powered by renewable energy or energy-from-waste, it’s one of the purest forms of carbon dioxide removal. This is exactly what we, together with our CO₂ storage partner Carbfix, are doing with the Orca plant in Iceland and will do with the Mammoth plant.

Direct air capture, combined with storage, has multiple benefits:

Safe

Safe

The carbon dioxide is safely stored by, for example turning it into stone through natural processes.

Scalable

Scalable

Modular plant design, low-temperature heat, and minimal land footprint make it highly scalable.

Permanent

Permanent

It goes one step further than compensation: removes CO₂ emissions form the air, forever.

Measurable

Measurable

You can see the exact amount of CO₂ we'll remove in your name on your personal dashboard.

Efficient

Efficient

With minimal land and water usage, this is one of the most efficient carbon dioxide removal approaches.

Natural

Natural

The removed CO₂ goes through rapid mineralization to become stone: a safe and natural process.

Direct air capture vs other CO₂ removal solutions

Each solution, whether natural or technology-based, has its benefits, and it is, therefore, essential that it works in synergy with all others if the climate targets are to be achieved. Here are the benefits of direct air capture:

  • Location-independent: CO₂ is in the air at the same concentration everywhere in the world. This means that DAC plants can be located anywhere as they do not need to be attached to an emissions source. They are only required to be placed near a renewable energy source and in a place where CO₂ can be stored.
  • Fast scalability: Compared to trees, one of our plants is about 1,000 times more efficient. That means it does the work of 200,000 trees in 1,000 times less space.
  • Efficient land usage: Our plants require less land than other techniques. E.g., on a land area of 0.42 acres, our Orca plant can remove 4,000 tons of CO₂ from the air every year, which is almost 1,000 times more effective than trees. The same land would host around 220 trees with an estimated capacity of 22kg each (source), i.e., only 4.62 tons of CO₂ per year

One of our modular CO₂ collectors has a nominal capacity of 500 tons per year. You’d need about 20,000 trees to match this amount.

Do you still have open questions? Learn more about:

The energy usage: We are committed to driving down energy consumption as much as possible. We only use renewable energy, energy-from-waste, or other waste heat to power the plants.

The difference with offsetting: Traditional carbon offsets are typically a trade of avoided emissions through certified emission reduction projects that absorb or avoid CO₂. It can lead to reduced emissions, but not to the zero and negative emissions that we need to deliver to keep global warming under control. In contrast, our carbon dioxide removal service physically removes CO₂ emissions from the air, locking the CO₂ away by permanently storing it for thousands of years. It is therefore radically different from trading avoided emissions. 

The plants' carbon footprint: We have already conducted multiple life-cycle assessments (LCA, see here) to assess the footprint of building, operating, and recycling our DAC plants. They confirm the grey emissions of a Climeworks plant are less than 10% of the captured carbon dioxide with the use of renewable electricity, our goal is to reduce them to 4%.

The location of the plant: Two requirements are needed to build 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 through mineralization. However, this process can be applied anywhere, as long as renewable energy and geological storage options are available. We are currently testing Oman as an option, with 44.01, and Norway, with Northern Lights.

Let's remove CO₂ together