Last week, Swiss company Climeworks launched Orca, the world’s largest direct air capture and storage plant that permanently removes CO2 from the air. The plant is located in proximity to the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant by ON Power near Reykjavik, Iceland.
The construction of Orca started in May 2020 and is based on advanced modular technology in the form of innovative stackable container-size collector units. These units are powerful and compact with minimal physical footprint. This has made it possible for Orca to be operational in under 15 months. Compared to the previous technology generation, the use of steel in the collector units has roughly been reduced by half per output unit. Orca also supports the expansion of Climeworks, as the technology can easily be replicated at different locations worldwide and on ever larger scales, in a flexible manner wherever ample renewable energy and storage conditions are available. Strategically located adjacent to ON Power’s Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant, Orca runs fully on renewable energy.
Orca is the first-of-its-kind plant that translates the vision of industrial-scale direct air capture and storage into reality. This improved technology generation comes in an award-winning new design, which embodies the interconnection between nature and technology. For the technology generation which Orca represents, Climeworks has been able to intensify the process leading to increased CO2 capture capacity per module. This optimized process means that more carbon dioxide can be captured and stored than ever before.
Expansion is around the corner
This innovation in plant design is a key enabler to rapidly scale up this much-needed climate technology in the years to come. Since Orca is now a reality and in operation, Climeworks is on track to ramp up its capture capacity significantly – as will be required in light of the strong market demand as shown through long-term partnerships with, among others, Microsoft, Swiss Re, Shopify and commitments from over 8’000 private individuals. Climeworks inspires and supports more pioneering companies and individuals to act now and remove carbon dioxide from the air.
Partnership with Carbfix and ON Power
Strong partnerships with pioneering Icelandic companies support the excellent conditions for the scale up. ON Power, the Icelandic geothermal energy provider, supplies clean renewable energy to power the Orca plant. Our partners Carbfix, experts in rapid underground mineralization mix the air-captured CO? with water and pump it deep underground, where it is trapped in stone through a natural mineralization process that takes under two years.
It only took Carbfix and Climeworks four years to advance their direct air capture and storage concept from pilot scale to commercial scale. The Orca plant has the capacity of capturing 4,000 tons of CO2 per year, which is injected by Carbfix into nearby basaltic rock-formations to be permanently turned into stone.
Former President of Iceland, Mr. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, opened the formal inauguration of the plant, followed by Ms. Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister og Iceland, and Dagur B. Eggertsson, Mayor of Reykjavik. Jan Wurzbacher and Christoph Gebald, the founders of Climeworks, elaborated on the incredible journey leading to realization of the station.
Our climate goals will not be met without large scale removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. This first-of-a-kind system marks an important milestone in the fight against the climate crisis and the Carbfix team is contribute to much needed climate action by turning CO2 into stone!