It’s not enough to simply stop pumping carbon dioxide into the air to minimize the effects of global warming. We also need to start taking out some of the carbon dioxide we’ve already put there. Swiss startup Climeworks is in the business of doing just that, and recently in Italy that sucks carbon dioxide out of the air and converts it into natural gas.
Climeworks has been in the business of collecting atmospheric carbon dioxide for a few years now. In 2017, it launched the world’s first ‘negative emissions’ plant, by equipping an existing geothermal plant in Iceland with a facility for collecting CO2. That facility uses excess heat and electricity from the geothermal plant to capture CO2 from the air and bury it in the ground.
Climeworks’ new facility works in much the same way, but with a few major differences. Instead of burying the CO2 in the ground, the Italy facility combines the carbon with renewably-produced hydrogen to make methane. That methane can be used the same way any other natural gas is used, except this particular gas is carbon-neutral.
Perhaps the biggest problem with capturing carbon dioxide is finding a way to pay for it. Short of some sort of government tax credit, there’s no way to bury CO2 in the ground and make money from it. This new approach provides Climeworks a way to develop its technology and remove some carbon dioxide from the air while still turning a profit at the same time.
Currently, the plant can pull about 150 tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere. The plant is also modular, meaning it’s easy for Climeworks to simply add more collectors and rapidly increase its production. For the good of the entire planet, let's hope this works.