On September 8, Carbfix started injecting CO2 captured by Climeworks’ Orca plant constituting the world’s first commercial direct air capture and storage chain. Orca is the name of Climeworks’ new direct air capture and storage plant in Iceland. It will take carbon dioxide removal to the next level by combining Climeworks’ direct air capture technology with the underground storage of carbon dioxide provided by Carbfix. Orca will capture 4000 tons of CO2 per year – making it the world’s biggest climate-positive facility to date. Using Climeworks state of the art technology is one of the most impactful ways to stop climate change.
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!
Unprecedented extreme weather events have dominated the news headlines since early this year. The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cautions that the world will see more of this in years to come. The report further confirms that it is crucial to reduce our emissions drastically and remove unavoidable and historic carbon dioxide emissions from the air permanently.
One month after the report was published, Climeworks launches Orca, the world’s largest direct air capture and storage plant that permanently removes CO₂ from the air.
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 Hellisheiði 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 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 considering 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.
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. Climeworks’ partners Carbfix, experts in rapid underground mineralization mix the air-captured CO₂ with water and pump it deep underground, where it is trapped in stone through a natural mineralization process that takes under two years.
Shortly after the IPCC stated a clear and urgent need for carbon dioxide removal, the inauguration of Orca provides immediate impact: every ton of carbon dioxide removed from the air by Orca is a ton immediately not contributing to global warming.
The plant is a steppingstone for Climeworks’ expansion on route to megaton removal capacity by the second part of this decade, based on their leading and most scalable direct air capture technology.
Orca delivers permanent, metered carbon dioxide removal and sets the precedent for a high-quality, verifiable carbon removal market by being the first direct air capture and storage service with a validated process – awarded mid-June 2021 by independent third-party DNV.
“We are proud, excited, and beyond delighted to have arrived at this stage in our journey to reverse climate change. Orca is now a reality, and it is a result of concerted efforts from every stakeholder involved. I want to take this opportunity to convey my gratitude and appreciation to the Government of Iceland, our partners in Iceland, our trusted investors, our corporate clients and pioneers, partners, the media, and our team of Climeworkers in making Orca a reality,” Christoph Gebald, co-CEO and co-founder of Climeworks, stated.
“Orca, as a milestone in the direct air capture industry, has provided a scalable, flexible, and replicable blueprint for Climeworks’ future expansion. With this success, we are prepared to rapidly ramp up our capacity in the next years. Achieving global net-zero emissions is still a long way to go, but with Orca, we believe that Climeworks has taken one significant step closer to achieving that goal,” Jan Wurzbacher, co-CEO and co-founder of Climeworks, added.