Green by Iceland

Carbfix and Climeworks: Pulling CO2 out of thin air

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), annual global CO2 emissions in 2019  were a striking 33 gigatons of carbon (GtC), in line with every year of the past decade. Let that number sink in. One gigaton is equal to one billion metric tons, more than a hundred million African elephants!

While the numbers are hard to grasp, we know there must be a change. There has been tremendous progress in implementing renewables globally, but unfortunately, emissions are not trending downward. What if we told you there was a way to pull CO2 out of the air? While it sounds like magic, an Icelandic start-up called Carbfix is doing this right now in a collaborative effort with Switzerland-based Climeworks.

On the outskirts of Reykjavík, next to the Hellisheidi geothermal powerplant, CarbFix and Climeworks are extracting CO2 out of thin air and turning it into rock!

Essentially, CarbFix is accelerating a natural process that usually occurs over geological timespans. CO2 and other acid gases are produced from industrial sources, such as coal and gas burning, cement and steel manufacturing, and even geothermal wells. These gases are captured and pumped into scrubbers that shower the gasses with pure water. The gasses dissolve into the water and are injected into the subsurface basaltic rock formations, where they turn into stable minerals (rock) in approximately two years. 

In this CO2 elimination relationship, Climeworks uses its proprietary direct air capture (DAC) technology to "catch" the CO2, and Carbfix takes care of the storage. Climeworks' DAC technology requires a consistent heat source (~100°C/212°F), and the Hellisheidi Plant proved ideal. The pilot unit started in October 2017 captures approximately 50 tons of CO2 annually. The Hellisheidi plant is the first industrial-scale combination of DAC and carbon capture and storage (CCS). While a DAC unit can pull CO2 out of the air anywhere, capturing at the source is far more energy-efficient before the CO2 is diluted in the atmosphere. CarbFix and Climeworks are currently working to scale up DAC technology applications in conjunction with CarbFix's CO2 sequestration to drive down costs to a competitive $25/ton (€21/3,500 ISK). 

Worldwide, the Climeworks and Carbfix technology combo will have the most notable impact directly at significant emission sources. Here is where heat andCO2 concentrations are most economical for capture and the mineralization process. Businesses will then be better able to remove their emissions and, most critically, accurately price this into products or services. The technology and applicationsofCabfixandClimeworksare evolving rapidly and may prove to be an essential part of reducing atmospheric CO2.  


Carbfix and Climeworks in Iceland