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Introducing Orca, the world's largest DAC facility

It’s official; the largest direct air capture (DAC) with permanent storage facility in the world is operational. Climeworks, a company I co-founded, has started removing CO2 from the atmosphere at the geothermal park in Hellisheidi, Iceland. The plant, named Orca, is made up of 8 collector containers that will cumulatively remove 4,000 metric tons of CO2 per year. This project will combine Climeworks’ DAC technology with ON Power’s renewable geothermal heat and electricity and Carbfix’s geologic storage expertise based on their rapid CO2 mineralization approach.

It’s official; the largest direct air capture (DAC) with permanent storage facility in the world is operational. Climeworks, a company I co-founded, has started removing CO2 from the atmosphere at the geothermal park in Hellisheidi, Iceland. The plant, named Orca, is made up of 8 collector containers that have a nominal cumulative capacity to remove 4,000 metric tons of CO2 per year. This project will combine Climeworks’ DAC technology with ON Power’s renewable geothermal heat and electricity and Carbfix’s geologic storage expertise based on their rapid CO2 mineralization approach.

The location is ideal because it’s essentially a cluster where we have direct and constant access to a supply of renewable energy and we sit on top of abundant layers of basaltic rock where the captured CO2 can be safely and permanently stored. In this process, Climeworks captures CO2 from the atmosphere, and CarbFix mixes CO2 with water and subsequently injects the mixture deep underground. There the CO2 reacts with basaltic rock to form a solid mineral carbonate. This permanently stores the atmospheric CO2 and has been shown to mineralize 95% of the CO2 in just two years, which is substantially faster than the millennia required for natural mineralization to occur without human intervention.

As a business, Climeworks has focused primarily on providing carbon removal services. We offer both corporate and individual customers to permanently remove CO2 in their name. Our subscription service for individual customers has over 8,000 monthly subscribers from 56 different countries, while on the corporate side we are proud to have Microsoft, Swiss Re, Stripe, Shopify, the Economist, Audi and other corporate customers who are all committed to removing CO2 to achieve their corporate climate targets. We have a number of long-term contractual agreements, such as a 10-year delivery contract with Swiss Re, that sends an important signal to the market and provides certainty for Climeworks to move forward, scale up, and further reduce costs through economies of scale.

While Orca is a fairly small industrial facility, it represents a major milestone in the commercial development of DAC technologies. It is presently the largest DAC plant in the world, but because our technology is modular and now fully demonstrated, it is only the beginning of what is possible. Climeworks has the mission to not just halt climate change but to reverse it. We want to be very clear that emissions reductions and avoidance efforts must be front and center, but we are also confident that Climeworks and DAC can help cover an important and likely very tricky portion of our pathway to net-zero GHG emissions, namely residual, legacy, and possibly overshoot emissions. Our goal is to capture megatons of CO2 before the end of the decade and move toward gigaton scale by midcentury. Climeworks currently has several different DAC plants operating throughout Europe, but the US is also a very promising location given its rapid deployment of renewable energy and access to vast geological storage sites for CO2. We believe the emerging policy agenda in the United States, including an enhanced 45Q tax credit, federally procured carbon removal, and funding for regional DAC hubs could create an attractive market for near-term DAC deployment and create the conditions for Orca’s progeny to be based in America.

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