Taking our historical carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere is one of the new technologies helping us combat climate change. It’s not just an idea, it’s a reality, working today and already removing 1000s of tonnes of CO₂, and it’s accessible to both businesses and individuals. Climeworks is a pioneer in the ‘direct air capture’ space, and here we talk to Daniel Egger, the company’s Chief Commercial Officer.
Could you tell us a little bit more about Climeworks
Climeworks is one of the global leaders for carbon dioxide removal via direct air capture. By offering its direct air capture solution to everyone, Climeworks creates a market for carbon dioxide removal, as demonstrated by its growing customer base, which includes both individuals and businesses.
Climeworks provides a technology that can help stop climate change. With our technology, we capture carbon dioxide directly from the air. Our machines consist of modular CO₂ collectors that can be stacked to build machines of any size. They are powered solely by renewable energy or energy-from-waste. The CO₂ collectors selectively capture carbon dioxide in a two-step process. The air-captured carbon dioxide can either be upcycled into climate-friendly products such as carbon-neutral fuels and materials or completely removed from the air by safely storing it.
Climeworks also offers individuals the opportunity to sign-up to have carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere on their behalf. Through our subscription service, everyone can be a climate pioneer and help us move towards a positive climate future.
How do you differentiate yourselves in the market?
Rather than point source capture (i.e. capturing the carbon dioxide where it is emitted), Climeworks’ technology allows us to capture historical and otherwise unavoidable carbon dioxide, not just new carbon dioxide. This is essential if we are to halt climate change.
Both technologies – direct air capture and point-source capture – capture carbon dioxide in fundamentally different ways. Direct air capture removes carbon dioxide directly from the air where concentrations are 0.04% (around 400 ppm). At point sources, concentrations can reach 20% or more. This requires a different core technology and different filter materials.
Capturing carbon dioxide from point sources is one approach to emissions reduction: it prevents new emissions from entering the atmosphere. But this is not enough; we need to actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to reach global climate targets since humanity has already emitted too much.
In addition, the carbon dioxide collected by Climeworks at its plant in Iceland is stored permanently underground, where it turns to stone through a process of natural mineralisation. This makes the removal and the subsequent storage completely permanent with no risk of CO₂ re-entering the atmosphere.
As the Climeworks’ collectors are modular, the technology is also completely scalable. This is essential if we are to make a meaningful dent in the historical carbon dioxide currently in our atmosphere.
What was your last major milestone?
Construction is underway on Orca, Climeworks’ new direct air capture plant in Iceland. Orca will take carbon dioxide removal to the next level: it combines Climeworks’ direct air capture technology with the underground storage of carbon dioxide provided by Carbfix on a much larger scale than ever before, capturing 4,000 tons of CO₂ per year.
Orca is important because, besides emissions reduction efforts, which prevent new CO₂ from entering the atmosphere, climate scientists agree that removing historical emissions is crucial to limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
To restore a healthy balance of CO₂ in the atmosphere, pure carbon dioxide removal solutions are needed at a large scale, and this is what Orca will demonstrate. By providing accessible, permanent and fully measurable CO₂ removal, Orca sets high standards for the emerging carbon dioxide removal industry.
Orca will permanently remove CO₂from the atmosphere on behalf of corporations or institutions as well as individuals.
How has your company adapted to the outbreak of COVID-19?
We already had a slick home-office and remote working set up for our Climeworkers, and with this in place were able to continue working, almost as normal. We have a large friendly team, so we miss working in the same office and the social element that brings. Regular online meetings and calls helped keep us all together. A shared vision to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere and create a climate positive world is a powerful motivator for everyone here at Climeworks.
How do you see the industry changing in a post-COVID-19 world?
COVID-19 has made us all more aware than ever of the interconnectedness of nature and humankind. Many big corporations have strengthened their sustainability efforts during the pandemic. For example, companies, from Microsoft to Shopify, have pledged net-zero (and even net-negative) emissions within the next 15-20 years. It is wonderful to witness so many blue-chip organisations committing to net zero at a rate that has never been seen before. No one wants the climate to work against us, so we all must take steps to halt climate change and create a truly climate positive future. Climeworks’ vision is to inspire 1 billion people to reverse climate change by permanently removing carbon dioxide from the air. Direct air capture technology makes this possible and accessible.
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About Daniel Egger
Chief Commercial Officer, Climeworks
Daniel Egger is CCO of Climeworks, which empowers people to reverse climate change by permanently removing carbon dioxide from the air. The direct air capture company returns the carbon dioxide it captures to earth where it remains permanently removed from the air for millions of years. The Climeworks direct air capture technology runs exclusively on clean energy, and the modular CO₂ collectors can be stacked to build machines of various sizes. Alternatively, the air-captured carbon dioxide can be upcycled into carbon-neutral fuels, paving the way towards a climate-positive world.