Tech

The start-up turns carbon dioxide into stone

A start-up in Iceland tackles a key piece of the climate change puzzle by turning carbon dioxide into rocks, allowing greenhouse gases to be stored forever instead of escaping into the atmosphere and trapping heat.

Reykjavik-based Carbfix captures and dissolves CO₂ in water, then injects it into the ground where it turns to stone in less than two years. “It’s a technology that can be scaled up – it’s cheap, economical and environmentally friendly,” Carbfix CEO Edda Sif Pind Aradottir said in an interview. “Basically, we are only doing what nature has been doing for millions of years, so we are helping nature to help itself.”

Once considered a pipe dream, capturing and storing CO₂ has become in recent years an area of ​​immense interest to high-profile investors, such as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla’s Elon Musk, who are looking for solutions to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

The technology can work in two ways. The first is called “carbon capture,” where gas is trapped from the smokestacks of factories and power stations before it escapes into the atmosphere. A second, more difficult process is “carbon removal” – removing CO₂ from the air around us. Carbon capture can reduce a company’s or government emissions to zero, while carbon removal can help offset its emissions, or even negate the impact, by removing more CO₂ from the air than it does. ‘it does not produce.

Carbfix does both. He is expanding his project to the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant to capture carbon emissions as they are released, and he is partnering with the Swiss start-up Climeworks which builds machines to capture CO₂ directly from the air. Although geothermal power plants are already classified as renewable energy, they produce a small fraction of the CO₂ that would be generated by a natural gas installation.

Cheaper

When it comes to carbon capture, the Hellisheidi plant is able to do so at a cheaper cost than buying carbon credits, according to Aradottir. Its process costs around R385 / tonne, compared to the current price of around € 40 (R740) per tonne on the EU Emissions Trading System, the Union’s main policy tool for reducing emissions .

Climeworks’ direct air capture operation is much more expensive. On the company’s website, individuals can purchase offsets that cost over US $ 1,200 / tonne. Wholesale buyers can get them cheaper. “I bought their capacity and got a volume discount,” Gates said in an interview last month. “I think it can be $ 600 / tonne.”

The EU’s ETS system was created before direct air capture became a viable technology, and it currently does not accept credit for direct air capture. Yet a growing number of analysts believe that such offsets will need to be part of the agenda to ensure Europe meets its Green Deal target of becoming climate neutral by 2050.

This is one of the reasons why Gates and Microsoft are supporting Climeworks projects. “Climeworks direct air capture technology will be a key part of our carbon removal efforts,” said Elizabeth Willmott, head of carbon removal at Microsoft. Musk announced last month that he would fund a new carbon removal award that will distribute $ 100 million to top tech innovations over four years. CarbFix said he was participating.

Carbfix was born out of a research project and founded in 2007 by Reykjavik Energy, the University of Iceland, the CNRS in France and the Earth Institute at Columbia University. It is owned by Reykjavik Energy.

The first pilot injections were carried out in 2012, followed by a large-scale capture plant for two of the six high pressure turbines at the Hellisheidi plant in 2014. The plant’s capture capacity was then doubled in 2016 and the goal is to reduce planter emissions to close to zero in the years to come. In 2017, Climeworks installed its direct air capture machine in Hellisheidi.

The technology relies on basalts, where carbonated water reacts with elements such as calcium, magnesium and iron, forming carbonates that fill the voids in underground rocks. Carbfix is ​​also working with research institutes to make the technology applicable to other types of rocks.

The company aims to reach one billion metric tonnes of permanently stored CO by 2030. The global storage potential using this technology is greater than the emissions resulting from the combustion of all fossil fuels on Earth, according to Carbfix. Europe could theoretically store at least four trillion tonnes of CO₂ in rocks, while the United States could store at least 7.5 trillion tonnes.

“It will never be the only solution,” Aradottir said. “We’re ambitious and have high hopes that we can scale the technology – and here I’m talking about the gigaton scale – and that we are able to do it quickly because that’s what the world needs. ” – Reported by Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir and Akshat Rathi, (c) 2021 Bloomberg LP

The start-up turns carbon dioxide into stone

Source link The start-up turns carbon dioxide into stone

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