Today Climeworks has launched the world’s first commercial plant that captures atmospheric CO₂ for supply and sale to a customer. The Swiss direct air capture company launched the commercial-scale Direct Air Capture plant, featuring its patented technology that filters carbon dioxide from ambient air. The plant is now supplying 900 tonnes of CO₂ annually to a nearby greenhouse to help grow vegetables. The plant is a historic step for negative emissions technology – earmarked by the Paris climate 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 carbon 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.
During the Climeworks capture process, CO₂ is chemically deposited on the filter surface. Once the filter is saturated, the CO₂ is then isolated at a temperature of about 100 °C. The pure captured CO₂ gas 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).
“Highly scalable negative emission technologies are crucial if we are to stay below the two-degree target of the international community,” says Christoph Gebald, co-founder and managing director of Climeworks. “Direct air capture provides distinct advantages to achieve this and is perfectly suitable to be combined with underground storage. We’re working hard to reach the goal of capturing one percent of global CO₂ emissions. To achieve this, we estimate around 250,000 direct air capture plants like the one in Hinwil are necessary.”
The CO₂ captured by Climeworks can be used to carbonate beverages or produce climate neutral fuels and other materials. Capturing CO₂ locally 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. “With the energy and economic data from the plant we can make reliable calculations for other, larger projects and draw on the practical experience we have gained.” says Jan Wurzbacher, Climeworks co-founder and managing director.
• Direct Air Capture plant near Zurich filters 900 tonnes of CO₂ from atmosphere to supply to greenhouse, replacing fossil industrial CO₂
• Historic moment for negative emissions technology deemed crucial to stay below two degrees of global warming
• Climeworks wants to inspire 1 billion people to reverse climate change