As we use up our finite energy sources and search for alternatives, some companies choose to focus on decreasing our carbon footprint by creating innovative technology. A Swiss company, Climeworks, is doing its part by becoming the first in the world to develop a way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transform it into useful products.
Located in Zurich, Switzerland, Climeworks will operate a plant facility that will compress the captured CO2 for use as a fertilizer, for example. The Climeworks plant captures CO2 and traps it using a filter. The filter transfers the CO2 particles into a concentrated mass which, according to the company, farmers can use in their greenhouses produce higher yields of crops. The first of such plants was launched on May 31, 2017. Climeworks’ goal is to vigorously and effectively scale this technology over the next 10 tears. Their long-term goal is to acquire 1 percent of all annual carbon dioxide emissions produced globally by 2025.
Sabine Fuss from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin (unaffiliated with Climeworks) is a sustainable energy researcher. She points out that Climeworks direct air capture plant “is the first of its kind to operate on an industrial scale.”
“It’s important to note that they will not be permanently storing the CO2 that will be captured,” she said. “Instead, it will be used for greenhouses, producing synfuels, etc. No negative emissions will be generated. Negative emissions can only occur when the captured carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and then locked away forever,” Fuss said.
Removing carbon dioxide from the air is recognized by some as a method to reduce the long-term buildup of greenhouse gases. The technology is now available for us to decrease carbon dioxide from our atmosphere, but the reality is that this technology is still in its infancy and efforts like those proposed by Climeworks have never been used on a large scale.
Climeworks presents a potential for an entirely new industry. As they work towards improving their technology, other companies are joining them. A company in British Columbia, Carbon Engineering, are also working to create direct air capture systems that will suck carbon dioxide out of the air.
Co-founder of Climeworks, Christoph Gebald, says that “Highly scalable negative emission technologies are crucial if we are to stay below the two degrees C target of the international community. The DAC (direct air capture) technology provides distinct advantages to achieve this aim and is perfectly suitable to be combined with underground storage.”
There are others, however, who believe that carbon removal technology is controversial, mainly because some specific methods used to plan forests may force changes in the way we use land, and this has the potential to displace farms and people who grow their own food. They have labeled the efforts of Climeworks as a “moral hazard.”