Climeworks builds first commercial scale CO2 capture plant

21.10.2015 08:05

Today the ETH spin-off company Climeworks AG, provider of solutions for efficiently capturing CO2 from ambient air, announced to construct and operate an industrial scale CO2 capture plant, which will worldwide for the first time sell atmospheric CO2 to a customer.

The plant will be operational by mid-2016 and annually capture 900 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, enhancing the growth of vegetables und lettuce in a nearby greenhouse of Gebrüder Meier Primanatura AG by up to 20 percent. The plant, which will be constantly delivering CO2, is constructed as part of a three-year pilot and demonstration project with Gebrüder Meier and Zweckverband Kehrichtverwertung Zürcher Oberland KEZO (a municipal waste disposal company) as project partners. The project is supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE).

Costs of EUR 3 - 4 million
The main goal of the project, with development and building costs of 3-4 million EUR, is to industrialize Climeworks’ unique Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology and continuously operate an industrial scale plant that captures CO2 from ambient air. Another goal is to determine the plants’ operational costs, which is currently controversially discussed in the research community. This is an important finding in order to define business models for implementing the technology internationally.

The plant will be installed at the waste incineration facility of KEZO, in Hinwil (Canton of Zurich, Switzerland), which is subsequently powering the DAC plant with heat and electricity. The high purity CO2 product is then delivered to a neighboring greenhouse operated by the Gebrüder Meier Primanatura AG. The gas is injected into the greenhouse atmosphere in order to enhance the growth of vegetables and lettuce by up to 20 percent.

The project is a crucial milestone in supporting Climeworks’ vision to close the carbon cycle due to the fact, that it allows a technology transfer from a novel technology originally developed at ETH Zurich and EMPA for industrial application. Furthermore, it will deliver reliable mass and energy balances as well as economic data as basis for further Climeworks systems on industrial scale.

Further industrialization
Based on the results of this project Climeworks’ product will be further industrialized to eventually supply air captured CO2 to Power-to-Gas / Power-to-Liquids technologies to efficiently store renewable electricity by producing synthetic fuels. These fuels, produced from atmospheric CO2, water and renewable electricity are carbon-neutral and not in competition with food production for agriculture.

Climeworks’ technology enables a closed carbon cycle, where CO2 emitted from any source or even the past can be captured and re-used for the production of carbonneutral fuels. In the short-term Climeworks’ technology shall be used to supply CO2 for beverage companies, currently receiving its CO2 majorly as waste product from industry, in turn stemming from the combustion of fossil fuels.

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Not always spin-offs