World’s first “negative emissions” plant

Sustainability problem: Energy/Climate change

Each year, we are collectively producing 40 trillion kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2). The Paris climate agreement aims at reducing this emission rate to keep global temperature from increasing more that 2°C. Because we are on track of emitting more CO2 than needed, we need a way of taking back the extra greenhouse gas.

Technology solution

  • This article in Quartz highlights the work done by a company called Climeworks to turn a carbon-neutral geothermal power plant in Iceland into the first “negative emissions” plant.
  • The technology developed by Climeworks is called direct-air capture, and it consists in machines that suck CO2 directly from air using coat plastics with an amine, a type of chemical that absorbs CO2.
  • This captured CO2 is then injected into the ground, where it reacts with basaltic rock and turns it into stone. This ensures that the recovered CO2 won’t escape back to the atmosphere for millions of years.
  • Climeworks’ CO2 capturing system works using waste heat from the geothermal plant, making the whole installation effectively carbon negative.
  • This is still a pilot scale, capturing only 50 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year, about the same emitted by a single US household.

Organizational stakeholders

  • Firms looking to reduce their carbon footprint
  • Energy companies
  • Governments
  • International organizations
  • Climate change advocates

Implementation steps

  1. Pilot the technology in different settings, proving the viability and cost effectiveness of the solution.
  2. Start scaling into bigger projects and look for opportunities to have economies of scale and costs reduction.
  3. Sell the technology to companies and governments that have set an aggressive emission reduction goal.

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4 thoughts on “World’s first “negative emissions” plant

  1. Great find! I’m so interested in the cost aspects of this and how it compares to energy efficient measures, renewable energy, and other carbon capturing technology. The article states their goal is $100 per metric ton, but can go as low as $30. That would be great and definitely worthwhile. Also, I wonder how a localized plant would be able to have an affect on a global issue…

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  2. This is very interesting! i’m curious about the emissions it takes to push the CO2 back into the earth and how that is accounted for. Also interesting to see its applications to scale in different parts of the world.

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  3. A very innovative technology indeed. Again, such ideas will always stumble upon large cost and scalability. And the fact that it needs a carbon-neutral plant to build upon means that it still needs further research since many power plants around the world are still not carbon-neutral.

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