The largest direct air capture project, commissioned in Iceland on September 8th, 2021, by Climeworks, is known as the Orca project. It currently captures nearly 4,000 metric tons of CO2 per year, and is planned to expand to 1 million tons of CO2 removal capacity by the second half of the decade.
Since the world exceeds 33 gigatons of CO2 emissions per year, that figure represents just 3 seconds of worldwide greenhouse gases per year, which raises questions of whether the technology can make a significant difference in global efforts to solve the climate crisis.
Costs Trim Large-Scale Deployment
According to the latest IPCC report, carbon capture technology can play a significant role in achieving the goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. However, there are doubts about the cost and the scalability of the technology. Direct air capture costs between $600 and $900 per ton of CO2 removed.
Given the fast speed at which emissions have to be eliminated, the solution seems costly to say the least and according to scientists “there’s no possible way for it to scale up on that timescale” needed.
The climate scientist who contributed to the IPCC report – Mathew Barlow, also claims that three decades is not enough time for the tech to be deployed globally.
However, the Orca carbon capture plant is the first of its kind that translates the vision of large-scale direct air capture and storage into a reality. There is room for innovation and improvement as the project will provide a study ground for future similar initiatives that will draw from its experience.
“This improved technology generation comes in an award-winning new design, which embodies the interconnection between nature and technology. For the technology generation which Orca represents, Climeworks has been able to intensify the process leading to increased CO² capture capacity per module. This optimized process means that more carbon dioxide can be captured and stored than ever before,” according to Climeworks.
The Orca direct air capture project is a huge milestone for the industry of carbon dioxide removal and, despite its limitations, represents a catalyst for further ambitious climate change actions.