World’s Largest Direct Air Carbon Capture Facility Will Reduce CO2 by 0.0001%

Construction of the world’s largest direct carbon capture facility from the air has begun in Iceland, led by Swiss startup Climeworks AG.

When construction is complete in 18 to 24 months, their facility, named “Mammoth”, will be able to remove 36,000 tonnes of CO2 from the air per year, or 0.0001% of the 36 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted per year by humanity.

Climeworks currently operates its “Orca” plant which captures 4,000 tons per year and began operations last year. This new plant will increase their capacity by an order of magnitude.

Direct carbon capture from air is the concept that carbon can be removed from the air by industrial and chemical processes. The new Climeworks plant will use geothermal energy to operate, sucking carbon from the air and mixing it with water, then injecting it into the ground where it reacts with basalt to form solid carbonate rock.

It is preferred by big polluters like Exxon as a way to reverse the huge damage they continue to cause, although it is currently “too expensive” to scale up significantly.

Because of this expense and the difficulty of scaling up, environmentalists question its usefulness. The fear is that the promise of this technology will delay action to reduce carbon emissions todaybecause humanity may think that a technological response ultimately Come for the chaos that we are currently causing to our world.

On the scale of this plant, a million similar sized factories would be needed just to make humanity carbon neutral. But that’s just net zero – then we’d need even more plants to bring CO2 down from the current 420ppm to 350ppm, which is the number we need to hit to bring the climate back to stasis. To achieve this concentration, it is necessary to roughly remove half a trillion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere in total.

Climeworks sells credits for the carbon they remove from the air at a price of 1,000 euros ($1,048) a ton, and companies like Microsoft, Audi and Shopify have already bought credits to offset their impact. It is one of the most expensive carbon credits in the world, and is much higher than the EPA’s estimates of the social cost of carbon and Exxon’s “target” figure of $100/ton. .

Climeworks hoped to bring that figure down to $100/tonne by somewhere in the second half of this decade, by which time they would like to be responsible for removing 1% of carbon from the atmosphere. But given that these predictions were made 5 years ago, progress doesn’t seem to be going as fast as they would like (or as we all need).

Now the company appears to be aiming for a facility to capture around half a million tonnes of CO2, another order of magnitude increase from its Mammoth plant, by the end of this decade.

Electrek’s Grasp

Even at $100/tonne, which may or may not be achieved, the total cost of the carbon we add to the atmosphere is $3.6 trillion per year globally and it would cost over $50 trillion to reduce atmospheric CO2 to 350 ppm. Multiply those numbers by ten to see the costs at Climeworks’ current price of 1,000 euros per tonne.

This is why reducing emissions is so necessary. It’s much harder and more expensive to make a mess and then clean it up than not to clean it up in the first place. We don’t know how far or cheaply we’ll be able to scale direct air capture, but we do know that there is already a very efficient form of carbon storage – oil is in the ground and has been there for millions of years, and it can just stay there indefinitely if we stop pull it out of the ground and burn it.

But some sort of carbon removal and sequestration will be needed to make humanity carbon negative, and the exorbitant costs of this underscore how mind-boggling it is for us to continue emitting carbon today. The world seems to be coalescing around a goal of around 2050 for net zero carbon, which means we will continue to emit for another 30 years, which we will then have to spend even more to remove from the atmosphere.

That is why, among other things, we need to put a price on carbon above the cost of cleaning up, so that the companies and people responsible for the high emissions are also the ones paying to clean up the damage they cause. And that money should be spent on immediate carbon reductions to get to net zero as soon as possible, because the later we act, the more it will cost. If you make a mess, you’re responsible for cleaning it up – a simple lesson we should have learned in kindergarten.

It also provides an incentive to reduce emissions, because if people see that it is more expensive to pollute and clean up than to invest in reducing emissions, they will choose the latter solution rather than the former. If we continue to make pollution cheap (or rather, if we allow the expense to be downloaded onto everyone), then people and businesses will pollute.

Carbon pricing has been seen as politically unsustainable by many, especially at a time when people are worried about rising gasoline prices. But a majority of Americans in every congressional district favor oil companies paying a carbon tax, and regardless of the political viability, the discussion of global warming is about physics.

Physics doesn’t care about political viabilities, only the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and it won’t bend to your timeline or stop and wait for you to fix the chain issues. supply or territorial disputes or midterm elections. Climate change will continue no matter what short-term situation humanity finds itself in and action to reverse it is needed now, not 30 years from now.

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