Orca Plant in Iceland Captures Carbon From Air and Stores it Underground

  • The world’s largest plant that extracts carbon dioxide directly from the air and deposits it underground, started operations this week.
  • The Orca plant in Iceland is the first-of-its-kind plant that translates the vision of industrial-scale direct air capture and storage into reality.
  • The unique plant runs on renewable geothermal energy.

Swiss start-up Climeworks AG, which specialises in capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air, has partnered with Icelandic carbon storage firm Carbfix to develop the ORCA plant that will extract out up to 4,000 tons of CO2 per year and store it underground.

The construction of Orca started in May 2020 and is based on advanced modular technology in the form of innovative stackable container-size collector units. These units are powerful and compact with minimal physical footprint. This has made it possible for Orca to be operational in under 15 months.

Compared to the previous technology generation, the use of steel in the collector units has roughly been reduced by half per output unit. Orca also supports the expansion of Climeworks, as the technology can easily be replicated at different locations worldwide and on ever larger scales, in a flexible manner wherever ample renewable energy and storage conditions are available. Strategically located adjacent to ON Power’s Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Plant, Orca runs fully on renewable energy.

Orca represents a milestone in the direct air capture industry with its capacity of capturing 4’000 tons of CO₂ per year, which will be removed from the air safely and stored permanently through the Carbfix natural mineralization process. Image credit: Climeworks

The unique 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.

Direct air capture is one of the few technologies extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and is viewed by scientists as vital to limit global warming, blamed for causing more heatwaves, wildfires, floods and rising sea levels.

Climeworks, which recently signed a 10-year carbon removal purchase agreement with major insurance firm Swiss Re (SRENH.S), also offers a subscription service, which allows consumers to pay for carbon removal through monthly payments.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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Green Building Africa promotes the need for net carbon zero buildings and cities in Africa. We are fiercely independent and encourage outlying thinkers to contribute to the #netcarbonzero movement. Climate change is upon us and now is the time to react in a more diverse and broader approach to sustainability in the built environment. We challenge architects, property developers, urban planners, renewable energy professionals and green building specialists. We also challenge the funding houses and regulators and the role they play in facilitating investment into green projects. Lastly, we explore and investigate new technology and real-time data to speed up the journey in realising a net carbon zero environment for our children.

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