Today Climeworks has launched the world’s first commercial direct air capture plant in Hinwil, Switzerland, which removes 900 tonnes of CO₂ from the atmosphere per year. The air-captured CO₂ is supplied to a nearby greenhouse to help grow vegetables. The plant is a historic step for negative emissions technology – earmarked by the Paris Agreement as being vital in the quest to limit a global temperature rise of 2 °C.
Founded by engineers, Christoph Gebald and Jan Wurzbacher, Climeworks developed its technology to capture atmospheric CO₂ with a filter, using mainly low-grade heat as an energy source. In Hinwil the direct air capture plant has been installed on the roof of a waste recovery facility – operated by the municipal administration union KEZO – with its waste heat powering the Climeworks plant.
Climeworks' direct air capture plant in Hinwil, Switzerland
During the Climeworks capture process, CO₂ is drawn into the collectors and captured on a highly selective filter material. Once the filter is saturated, the collectors are closed and the temperature is increased to around 100 °C, which releases the CO₂. The pure, air-captured CO₂ can then be sold to customers in key markets, including: commercial agriculture, food and beverage industries, the energy sector and the automotive industry. In Hinwil, Climeworks provides a continuous supply of CO₂ through an underground pipeline to a greenhouse 400m away, operated by Gebrüder Meier Primanatura AG, to assist with growing vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers.
By securing this supply agreement, Climeworks has ensured the Hinwil operation is the world’s first direct air capture plant with a commercial customer – an important step for the future of negative emissions technologies. The Hinwil plant will operate as a three-year demonstration project in co-operation with the partners Gebrüder Meier and KEZO, and with a contribution towards non-amortisable costs by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE).
The CO₂ captured by Climeworks can be used to carbonate beverages or produce climate neutral fuels and other materials. Capturing CO₂ from air for industrial uses enables customers to reduce their emissions and lessen their dependence on fossil fuels, as currently most industrial CO₂ is transported from fossil point sources via truck to industries on site. In comparison to other carbon capture technologies, a modular Climeworks plant can be employed almost anywhere. In the coming months Climeworks plans to launch additional commercial pilot projects in key target markets and wants to test its technology’s potential to deliver negative emissions by combining it with underground storage.