Carbon Capture

62: Taking carbon OUT of the air


There is virtually blanket scientific consensus that atmospheric CO₂ is the root cause of man made climate change (AGW – Anthropogenic Global Warming), and that humanity must stop burning fossil fuels to halt it. Recently, however, there has also been growing consensus that carbon already in the atmosphere needs to be reduced.


Carbon capture systems


In Switzerland, Christoph Gebald and Jan André Wurzbacher, engineering students at ETH Zürich, developed a concept of a modular CO₂ collector as well as a working prototype for their Masters degree in Renewable Energy. It involved giant fans that would draw in the air and bind carbon molecules into filters.

In Hinwil, Zurich, with funding from the European Union to partner with Reykjavik energy Climeworks’ plant with its 18 units was capable of capturing 900 tonnes of CO₂ in a year directly from the air, enough to grow vegetables in a nearby greenhouse.

Its technology is based on a cyclic capture-regeneration process using a filter made of porous granulates modified with amines. Fans suck in atmospheric CO₂ that chemically binds to the filter’s surface.

Once saturated, the filter is then heated to around 100°C, releasing high-purity gaseous CO₂. According to Climeworks, the filters can operate for several thousand cycles before needing to be replaced.

In 2016, Climeworks having announced participation in four leading European CO₂ conversion projects (Kopernikus Power-to-X, STORE&GO, and Celbicon), was chosen as one of 20 companies to present its technology as a potential solution to meeting climate targets at the COP22 UN Climate Change Conference 2016 in Marrakech.

In 2017, having built the production infrastructure with a capacity of more than hundred CO₂ collectors per year, Climeworks commissioned the world’s first commercial-scale direct air capture plant.

In June 2020, Climeworks attracted US$30.8 million in a private funding round to ramp up its production to hit its ambitious plans of capturing 1 % of annual CO₂ emissions by 2025.

In August 2020, Climeworks, Carbfix and ON Power agreed to build a new plant at the Hellisheidi Geothermal Park in Iceland to significantly scale-up carbon removal and storage. The plant will draw on a reliable supply of renewable geothermal energy to power Climeworks’ DAC technology.


Carbon Engineering (CE) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada takes a different approach of converting a 1 ton concentrated CO₂ (Direct Air Capture) into 1 barrel of clean liquid fuel per day.

CE’s investors include Bill Gates, Murray Edwards, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, LLC, Chevron Technology Ventures, and BHP. CE has been well supported within the clean-tech innovation system and has led projects funded by top-tier government agencies in both Canada and the USA.

CE grew from academic work conducted on carbon management technologies by Professor David Keith’s research groups at the University of Calgary and Carnegie Mellon University.

Founded in 2009, a scalable pilot plant in Squamish, B.C was built and developed. CE is privately owned and is funded by investment or commitments from private investors and government agencies.


Global Thermostat (GT), a privately funded carbon capture company located in Manhattan, New York was founded in 2010 to developed a DAC system where amine based sorbents are bonded to porous, honeycomb ceramic “monoliths” which act together as carbon sponges.

These carbon sponges efficiently adsorb CO₂ directly from the atmosphere, smokestacks, or a combination of both. The captured CO₂ is then stripped off and collected using low-temperature steam (85-100° C), ideally sourced from residual/process heat at little or no-cost.

The output results in 98% pure CO₂ at standard temperature and pressure. During the process only steam and electricity are consumed, without the creation of emissions or other effluents. This entire process is mild, safe, and carbon negative.

GT plants would be completely modular – from a single 50,000 tonne/yr. Module to a 40-Module, 2MM tonne/yr. Plant, and larger – a GT plant grows by adding more modules. In June 2019, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company and GT signed a joint development agreement to examine the scalability of GT’s DAC system.

If technical readiness and scalability is established, pilot projects at ExxonMobil facilities could follow. (

The Texas Clean Energy Project (TCEP) near Odessa, USA, is being developed by Karl E. Mattes and a team at Summit Power Group in Seattle to build of the world’s first Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) green-field natural gas-fired clean-coal power plant.

TCEP is designed for 90% carbon capture, which is projected to be 2.7 million tons of CO2 per year. The potential carbon captured by the plant will be used for enhanced oil recovery in the West Texas Permian Basin. (


In July 2019, a team at the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE) explored the use of DAC in multiple computer models. It showed that a “massive” and energy-intensive rollout of the technology could cut the cost of limiting AGW to 1.5° or 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

But the study also highlighted the “clear risks” of assuming that DAC will be available at scale, with global temperature goals being breached by up to 0.8C if the technology then fails to deliver. DAC should be seen as a “backstop for challenging abate ment” where cutting emissions is too complex or too costly.


The $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE is a global competition to develop breakthrough technologies that will convert CO₂ emissions from power plants and industrial facilities into valuable products like building materials, alternative fuels and other items that we use every day.

This four-and-a-half-year global competition challenges teams to transform the way the world addresses carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions through breakthrough circular carbon technologies that convert carbon dioxide emissions from power plants into valuable products.

In April 2018, at Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Future of Energy Summit in New York City, ten finalists were chosen from a field of 27 semi-finalists by an independent judging panel of eight international energy, sustainability and CO2 experts.

Each took home an equal share of a $5 million milestone prize. One of these, the University of California, Los Angeles, have developed their Carbon Upcycling UCLA system to siphon half a ton of CO2 per day from the Dry Fork power plant’s flue gas and produce 10 tons of concrete daily.

Together with four other finalists, including CarbonCure, a Canadian startup making greener concrete, and Carbon Capture Machine, a Scottish venture focused on building materials, UCLA competed in Wyoming, while another five teams competed at a natural gas plant in Alberta, Canada.

After Wyoming, the teams must dismantle their systems and haul them to Wilsonville, Alabama where they must repeat a three-month pilot at the National Carbon Capture Center, a research facility sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

What you can do: Continue to reduce your CO2 emissions wherever possible.

Discover Solution 63: storing carbon dioxide in recycled concrete

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