Swiss company Climeworks is building the world’s largest direct air capture and storage facility in Iceland to store atmospheric carbon dioxide in rocks. Audi has partnered with an eco-friendly startup headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, and is promoting future technologies through this project.
The facility will filter 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the air and mineralize it underground. Climbworks is filtering 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the air on behalf of Audi.
How to send carbon dioxide underground
Direct air capture technology extracts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and returns air without carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Climbworks’ Icelandic facility stores carbon dioxide underground and mineralizes it naturally. Through this process, carbon dioxide is permanently removed from the atmosphere.
The facility first sucks in air from the atmosphere and sends it to a carbon dioxide collector equipped with a filter. There is a specially developed adsorbent to filter carbon dioxide from the air. When carbon dioxide is collected through the filter, it is heated to 100 degrees Celsius using heat from a nearby geothermal plant to extract carbon dioxide molecules. The water from the Helisshey geothermal power plant then moves carbon dioxide through the facility down 2,000 meters below the ground.
Carbon dioxide molecules pass through the basalt, undergo natural mineralization, and are converted to carbonates over a period of years, allowing carbon dioxide to be buried underground forever. Water containing carbon dioxide is returned to the geothermal power plant. The facility will operate tirelessly throughout the year and will filter 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, of which 1,000 tons will be allocated to Audi. Treating this amount of carbon dioxide is the same as what about 80,000 trees do.
Climbworks’ direct air capture technology has two characteristics. Lifecycle analysis shows that 90% of the carbon dioxide filtered from the atmosphere can be stored effectively and permanently underground. Looking at this figure, you can see the efficiency of the facility. And since this technology has the potential to expand to the annual megaton level, the potential value in the future is quite large.
Iceland is one of the few places on the planet with ideal conditions for applying this technology. Due to volcanoes, it has the most powerful geothermal heat in the world, and its particularly high geothermal energy means that carbon dioxide can be treated cost-effectively through the heat of the Earth. And Iceland’s rocks are also made of optimal materials for storing large amounts of carbon dioxide.
Why is Audi working on this project?
“Scientifically, the adsorption of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is important in addition to reducing the carbon dioxide emissions itself to reach the Audi Group’s climate-related targets,” said Hagen Seifert, head of the Audi Sustainability Protect Concept.
Audi is also contributing to carbon dioxide neutrality by participating in Climbworks’ project, and is participating in this project to promote the development of innovative climate reporting technologies and meaningful carbon dioxide reduction.’
Audi has been supporting carbon dioxide capture technology developed by Climworks, an eco-friendly Swiss startup, since 2013. Two years ago, the two companies built a facility in Hinwil, Switzerland, that filters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, converts it into carbonic acid, and supplies it to the food and beverage industry.
Audi is moving to the next step by expanding the partnership with a project in Iceland. In addition to the technology that permanently stores carbon dioxide underground, Audi is supporting Swiss startups based on technological know-how such as a new heat exchanger concept.
The Volkswagen Group is aiming to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles by 30% compared to 2015 as a whole by 2025. Accordingly, Audi has set various targets and is practicing them toward a goal of neutralizing carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.