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Climeworks launches world’s first commercial plant to capture CO2 from air; potential for CO2-neutral fuels

9 June 2017

Switzerland-based Climeworks, a spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), recently launched the world’s first commercial plant that captures atmospheric CO2 for supply and sale to a customer. The Swiss direct air capture company—which has also partnered with Audi in that company’s e-fuels initiative (earlier post)—launched the commercial-scale Direct Air Capture (DAC) 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. Climeworks aims to capture 1% of global CO2 emissions by 2025.

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 DAC 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 DAC plant.

Switzerland moving to accept CO2-neutral synthetic fuels to reduce fleet emissions
The association cleanfuelnow reports that the Swiss Council of States—the upper chamber of the Federal Assembly— recently adopted the motion by Swiss National Council member Thomas Böhni (earlier post) to recognize carbon-neutral E-synthetic fuels as a means to reduce fleet emissions.
The lower chamber, the National Council, adopted the motion last year.
This technology is exemplified by Climeworks and Germany-based Sunfire. It is possible to use this fuel in all current infrastructure, including fueling stations, and all vehicles.
Currently, the EU does not recognize CO2-neutral synthetic fuels in its policy.

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.

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-amortizable 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. The DAC-technology provides distinct advantages to achieve this aim and is perfectly suitable to be combined with underground storage. We’re working hard to reach the goal of filtering one per cent of global CO2 emissions by 2025. To achieve this, we estimate around 250,000 DAC-plants like the one in Hinwil are necessary.

—Christoph Gebald, co-founder and managing director of Climeworks

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 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.

June 9, 2017 in Carbon Capture and Conversion (CCC), Emissions, Fuels | Permalink | Comments (15)


No link or description of the filter material or its energy requirements.  Disappointing.

The temperature requirement of a mere 100°C for desorption sounds good, though.  It may make it suitable for a "combined heat and power" operation, such as PV panels engineered to also generate hot air or water.  The elevated operating temperature of the PV cells would shorten their lifetime, but getting dual use out of the glazing of the thermal collectors might make it worth it.

CO2 removal would also be a consequence of plants that supply liquid O2 and/or N2.

food and beverage industries
They use a lot of the CO2 from ethanol plants.

Yeah, ai vin, but the amount you get that way is minuscule.  Oxygen is 21% of air; CO2 is maybe 400 ppm, about 1/500 as much by volume.  An absorber that you can just hang out in the breeze can grab stuff from a lot more air.

I do kind of like the idea of putting absorbers around the intakes of cooling towers at a nuclear plant.  You could let them soak up CO2 all day, then use some off-peak steam tapped off the low-pressure turbine at night to regenerate the absorbers and grab the CO2.  Voila, carbon-negative power.

Wake me up when gas prices collapse.

It strikes me that if you want to take CO2 out of the air, the best way to approach it is where it is most concentrated, i.e. power station flue exhausts.
Otherwise, it is just greenwashing, usually using other people's money.
The best way of all, would be to stop burning fossil fuels, especially coal, wherever possible. This might mean replacing coal plants with renewables and CC natural gas plants that can be started up and shut down fairly quickly.
Nuclear sounds good, but costs too much at present. I would certainly keep all the nukes that I already have going.
I would use batteries for load shaping so you can switch from renewables to nat gas without glitches.
If batteries get really cheap, you might be able to use them for overnight storage of solar.
You'll never get through a European winter on renewables. You'll have to keep a fair measure of dispatchable power around for long dark still nights, even if you don't use it very much in summer.
Next, you need a pricing mechanism that allows that to happen.

I look at this more as proof of concept than a model of how things will actually be done when the technology is more developed.

There is a lot to be learnt by sticking all the building blocks together, although of course in a production set up it may be preferable to use the more concentrated CO2 stream from industrial processes etc.

Disregard my last post.
I was confusing this with the integrated cycle work in an article below.

If we stop using fossil fuels, how many of those streams of industrial CO2 will still exist?  Wind, PV and nuclear have no flue gases.

Closing the loop on carbon means taking carbon from the atmosphere, either directly or indirectly (via e.g. crop and forestry byproducts).

E-P, The liquid nitrogen market size was USD 12.48 Billion in 2015. At 50 cents per gallon that's about 25 billion gallons. So the amount of CO2 the industry could remove is what? 13 million gallons???

Looks like a decent SWAG.

Compare to 143 billion gallons of motor gasoline used in the USA in 2016.  You don't need to be any more accurate to know that the former figure is way, way down in the noise.

These will be needed to upscale 3rd generation biofuels and chemicals production and future food production.
Immagine when all animal feed en fish feed could be produced locally by bacteria fed with H2 and CO2: the only input is water, air, electricity, and a very small amount of minerals (extracted from seawater).

I think we already have that.  Feed certain archaea with CO2 and electricity, and you get methane and biomass (and oxygen at the positive electrode).  You can then use the methane to feed the bottom of a food chain starting with methanotrophic bacteria.  You might be able to go straight from there to filter-feeders like bivalves, or maybe feed zooplankton which feed fish.

This would be far more efficient than photosynthesis.

SkyMine, a (fairly) recent startup in Texas, does this with flue gas from an existing coal-powered plant, but it's great to capture it straight from the air as they seem to be doing here.

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