Work starts on world's biggest direct air capture plant

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Work starts on world's biggest direct air capture plant

The company behind the nascent green technology said on Wednesday that construction is expected to begin on Wednesday on what could become the world's biggest plant to capture carbon dioxide from the air and deposit it underground.

Swiss start-up Climeworks AG said its second large-scale direct air capture plant will be built in Iceland in 18 -- 24 months, and it will have capacity to suck 36,000 tons of CO 2 per year from the air.

It is a sliver of the 36 billion tons of CO2 emissions produced last year in the world. It is a 10 fold increase from Climeworks existing DAC plant, currently the world's largest, and a leap in scale for a technology that scientists said is unavoidable if the world is to meet climate change goals.

The new Mammoth plant will contain around 80 large blocks of fans and filters that suck in air and extract CO 2. Icelandic carbon storage firm Carbfix then mixes with water and injects underground where a chemical reaction turns it to rock. The process will be powered by a nearby geothermal energy plant.

Co-CEO Christoph Gebald said once this plant is operational, Climeworks intends to build a far larger facility containing roughly half a million tons of CO 2 per year and then replicate multiple plants of that size, backed by project financing, towards the end of the decade.

Mammoth was part-financed by a 600 million Swiss Franc $627 million financing round announced in April. The firm sells carbon removal credit - up to 1,000 euros per tonne - to customers including Microsoft, Audi and Boston Consulting Group, which is the world's most expensive carbon removal credit.

Gebald told Reuters that it was the cost of scaling up. This is the investment we have to do as a company to move forward. According to the International Energy Agency, the world currently has 18 direct air capture facilities. In late 2024, the U.S. oil firm Occidental plans to launch a large-scale DAC facility to collect 1 million tons of CO2 per year.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said energy-intensive technologies like DAC will be needed to remove CO 2 on a large scale in the coming decades, to limit global warming to 1.5 C and to avoid severe climate impacts.

Heleen De Coninck, an IPCC author and professor at the Eindhoven University of Technology, said DAC must be powered by CO 2 free energy to be useful, and should not replace urgent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

She said it can backfire if it leads to avoiding doing what is necessary right now.