Orca, in the south-west of the country, captures CO2 from the air and then traps it forever a thousand meters underground
Since it is difficult to get rid of, Iceland has decided to make it a resource. The Nordic country has just started Orca, the largest plant in the world that captures carbon dioxide and traps her underground.
Like large containers
Created by the Swiss startup Climeworks with the Icelandic Carbfix, the structure just started it aspires up to four thousand tons of CO2 every year, equal to that produced by 870 cars. The anything but technological aspect: the structure made up of eight modules that resemble containers, each with twelve large fans. These, thanks to the energy of the nearby geothermal power plant of Hellisheii, in the south-west of the country, constantly suck in air from the outside to carry it towards the solvents that act as a filter and retain CO2. When saturated, a hydrothermal spring rapidly raises the temperature by extracting the CO2 again which is then mixed with water. And so we arrive at the last step. The mixture is injected underground to a depth of one thousand meters and here, among the basaltic rocks, one of the major global pollutants will be transformed in just two years into harmless carbonate minerals that will keep it away from the atmosphere forever.
Direct Air Capture
Direct Air Capture (Dac), the separation of CO2 from the air of which Orca is one of the leading representatives, is not an absolute novelty, but the start of the largest plant in the world has attracted everyone’s attention, especially critics. The Icelandic structure, which was built in 15 months with an estimated cost of between 10 and 15 million dollars, has not only supporters. If they believe that carbon mineralization is the best way to get rid of the dangerous pollutant and that the modular system of Orca can be adapted to the needs of different countries, the critics respond that the technology still too expensive, which will take decades before it becomes efficient and requires too much space. Those four thousand tons of CO2 captured each year, they say, are a no brainer compared to 35 billion tons that we emit every year and very far from 10 million tons per year that we should be able to store by 2030 according to the International Energy Agency.
The United States steps forward
However, the market does not stop because there is not only the protection of the environment at stake. Thanks to Orca and 13 other plants, Climeworks generates carbon credits which it sells to other companies to offset their harmful emissions. Clients include Coca Cola, Microsoft and Swiss Re to which it sells CO2 for several hundred dollars a ton. And the competitors are certainly not watching. The United States and Scotland are working on projects that will obscure the Icelandic one: only for the United States there is talk of a capacity of one million tons per year starting from 2024. I wonder if at that point the little Orca will show its teeth, perhaps adding some modules in addition.
September 9, 2021 (change September 9, 2021 | 18:50)
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