Monday, November 9, 2015

Climeworks build the world’s first ever commercial scale CO2 capture plant

Last month, Climeworks, the Swiss direct air capture (DAC) company and Earth Challenge finalist, announced their plans to construct and operate the world’s first ever commercial scale CO2 capture plant. The plant will be located in Hinwil, Canton of Zurich in Switzerland and is expected to be operational from mid-2016.

The plant is a collaborative project involving Climeworks, Gebrüder Meier Primanature, KEZO and Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE). Climeworks are the leading partner and will design and operate the DAC plant. KEZO is a Swiss municipal waste disposal company who will supply the project with waste heat required for the DAC process. The plant will be installed at the Hinwil KEZO waste incineration facility. Gerbrüder Meier is a greenhouse operator who will buy the CO2 and use it for enhancing the growth of their vegetables in their greenhouses. SFOE are supporting the project within their pilot and demonstration program.

Image courtesy of Climeworks

This project is a huge step forward for Climeworks not only as it’s a global first, it will allow them to acquire real-world data on the costs associated with operating their DAC plant. The exact cost of operating a direct air capture plant has been the subject of much debate in the research community, with estimates ranging from $60 to $1000/ton CO2. The data provided by this plant could be critical for the future of the industry and will enable better structuring of business models around DAC technologies.

The development and building of the plant will cost €3-4 million and the plant will produce >99.9% purity carbon dioxide which will be sold and delivered to the closely located Gerbrüder Meier greenhouse. Gebrüder claim that the CO2 enriched air will enhance the growth of tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce by 20%.

Climeworks aim to use this pilot and demonstration project as the first step in enabling projects and industries that work within a closed carbon cycle. Future applications would be (renewable) power to gas or liquid fuels, where the CO2 released on their combustion is balanced by the CO2 captured during their production. However, in the short term, Climeworks aim to target beverage companies who currently source their CO2 from fossil fuel burning industries.