In Brief
Swiss company Climeworks is building a carbon capture and storage facility near Zurich which will be operational by September or October. The company intends to sell the collected CO2 to third parties.

Carbon Emissions Storage

The effects of climate change are becoming more and more evident as carbon emissions and global temperatures continue to rise. By the 2030s, the Earth’s oceans will suffer major oxygen loss everywhere. Between 2030 and 2050, as many as 250,000 people may die as a result of the social and environmental effects of climate change.

Fortunately, efforts are being made to help reduce our carbon output around the world by turning to renewable energy sources. More recently, scientists have devised another line of attack against climate change—carbon capture and storage. To put it in simple terms, carbon capture involves sucking greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere and storing them somewhere.

It may sound like an invention straight out of a dystopian science fiction novel, but the world’s first commercial carbon capture and storage plant will actually be established later this year, courtesy of Climeworks, a Swiss company focused on such technology.


Credit: Climeworks
Credit: Climeworks

A Contentious Moonshot

The pilot plant will be built near Zurich and is expected to be operational around September or October. As soon as it’s up and running, it will begin sucking up air and filtering the carbon dioxide (CO2). The CO2 will bind with the spongy filter, to be released only by heating it.

So, where will the CO2 go? To third parties willing to buy the stored gasses by the tonne. Climeworks intends to sell the gas to agricultural industries (such as those that make use of greenhouses), and beverage manufacturers for carbonated drinks.

However, while it’s an interesting way to deal with these gasses contributing to climate change, to keep the process going Climeworks intends to sell the gasses at $600 per tonne, which isn’t cheap. More than that, it’ll only rack up an annual 900 tonnes of CO2 extracted from the atmosphere, which is the equivalent emission of around 200 cars yearly.

Howard Herzog from MIT’s Energy Initiative is skeptical of the technology, saying, “I think it provides false hope.”

Time will certainly tell. Meanwhile, the world is closely monitoring other promising technologies that intend to deal with the carbon emissions crisis. Carbon Engineering intends to convert CO2 into a zero-carbon e-diesel fuel.