Carbon removal specialist Climeworks is on its way to reach multi-megaton capacity as early as 2040, according to the company itself.
Last week, we sat down with Climeworks carbon market verification specialist, Friedel Pretorius, to discuss the company’s latest developments.
We touched on subjects like its partnership with Carbfix, the recent joint direct air capture + storage (DAC+S) certification methodology, the scaling of direct air capture technology and future plans.
Does the partnership with Carbfix extend to all direct air capture (DAC) facilities? Are mineralization and storage the only thing that happens to captured CO2 by Climeworks or is further utilization also on the table?
Climeworks has partnered with Carbfix at its first commercial direct air capture and storage (DAC+S) plant, Orca, in Hellisheidi, Iceland. This partnership will extend to Climeworks’ next facility, Mammoth, for which construction in the same location has begun and operations are expected to commence in 2024.
With their unique method of turning air-captured CO2 into stone, their proximity to the Hellisheidi geothermal plant (which is owned by Carbfix’ parent company Reykjavik Energy) and their solid scientific backbone, including sophisticated monitoring and analysis of sequestered CO2, Carbfix is a great partner for Climeworks in Iceland.
We are also continuously assessing and developing complementary partnerships (e.g., with company 44.01 in Oman, as announced publicly already).
Permanent carbon removal via DAC+S is Climeworks’ focus today. But there are other applications for air-captured CO2 such as sustainable raw material for various applications.
For example, air-captured CO2 can be used to create renewable fuels and materials, a process called power-to-x, or PtX. For parts of the transportation industry (especially aviation and shipping), such renewable, carbon-neutral fuels will be crucial to reach emissions reduction targets. Climeworks has been involved in a few projects in the PtX space, for example, within the European industry consortium Norsk e-fuel.
Where did the idea of developing the DAC+S (direct air capture + storage) certification methodology come from? Is it meant to set the bar for other companies in the field?
The main objective of creating a methodology and verifying our carbon dioxide removal (CDR) service with DNV is to communicate the integrity of our service to our customers and stakeholders. As we continue to scale up along with other providers of carbon removal, we consider a certification mechanism based on a validated methodology and stringent standards necessary to establish the reliability of and trust in our own carbon removal solution and the carbon removal market in general.
Our methodologies set criteria for high environmental integrity CDR and take a rigorous stance on net emissions impact, avoiding double counting, and ensuring permanence and additionality.
We hope that our methodologies will be followed by others in the industry and that the methodologies and our learnings from the process can contribute to the industry’s development of high-quality CDR.
By making the methodology accessible, Climeworks and Carbfix invite and encourage other DAC actors to join the ongoing conversation around MRV and use our learnings as a starting point for their own verification journey. Climeworks is open to dialogue and suggestions and expects to evolve its progress on MRV in unison with the developments of this emerging industry. More info can be found on the official website.
Climeworks is building Mammoth – are more direct air capture facilities in the works?
On the journey to carbon dioxide removal at gigaton scale, Mammoth is an important step, set to take Climeworks’ removal capacity at a single facility forward by roughly 10x.
Beyond Mammoth, continuous scale-up is required and actively worked upon. Please, stay tuned for further announcements.
How will the company accommodate the large carbon removal contracts with clients like Microsoft and PwC?
Customers like Microsoft and PwC have understood that to meet their ambitious corporate climate goals in line with the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), they need to remove CO2 now and in the future. They demonstrate the importance of high-quality removals to complement drastic emissions reductions, and as such take over a vital role in shaping the voluntary carbon removal market.
Our carbon removal contracts with clients like Microsoft and PwC span several years. This means that the contracted CDR amount is not delivered upon purchase or in one batch but over a clearly defined period of time.
Such agreements provide planning security on both sides and support project developers in bringing to life new facilities and thereby accelerating capacity scale-up.
What are the priorities of the latest funding round?
In short, the priority of our latest funding round can be summarized as finding the fastest way to scale up direct air capture and bring more high-quality CDR via DAC+S to the market. More specifically, Climeworks’ scale-up roadmap foresees scaling our facilities by 5-10x every two to three years to reach megaton capacity by 2030.
From 2030 onwards, we aim for a scale-up factor of 10x every ten years – a growth rate similar to that of photovoltaic – setting our course to achieve multi-megaton capacity by 2040 and gigaton capacity by 2050. As you can imagine, Climeworks is working at full speed on developing its team of experts – talent being at the center of the technological, business and operational journey, while scaling its operations internationally.
Do you believe that the scaling of DAC is effective?
Yes, we know it is ambitious and achievable. Of course, many variables need to come together for us to be able to meet our target of removing gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in 2050. But while we intend to lead the way and continue to spearhead the DAC industry, we won’t do it alone.
The developments in recent months (increasing funding for DAC/CDR in both private – e.g. Frontier – and public sector – e.g., US Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Inflation Reduction Act) are positive signs of momentum showing that the global community and its key stakeholders are recognizing the need for permanent carbon removal and DAC to complement drastic reduction in emissions.
However, today most of the effort still relies on an undefined voluntary carbon market driven by the private sector. Looking ahead, more support from a policy standpoint is needed in at least three areas: (1) Establishing more funding and policies to support the CDR sector in the short term (EU IF, US DAC hub, US 45Q, demand and market creation etc.); (2) Enabling the efficient and sustainable deployment of the required infrastructure such as renewable energy or storage sites; as well as nurturing continued innovation; (3) Driving integrity in carbon markets by establishing a proper compliance framework for high-quality and independent certifications of carbon removals.