World's largest CO2 vacuum cleaner goes into action

World's largest CO2 vacuum cleaner goes into action

This is how the biggest CO2 cleaner works, combating greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale.

In the ongoing battle against climate change, innovative solutions are emerging to address the urgent need for carbon capture and reduction. Among these groundbreaking advancements stands the Mammoth system, a colossal CO2 vacuum cleaner developed by Swiss company Climeworks. This week, as Mammoth started operations in Iceland, it marked a significant milestone in the quest for sustainable environmental practices.

The Mammoth system, a marvel of engineering, dwarfs its predecessor, the Orca plant, which previously held the title of the largest air filtration plant globally. With Mammoth's immense size, ten times that of Orca, it can extract a staggering amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through a process known as Direct Air Capture (DAC).

Climeworks - Mammoth
© Climeworks

How does the Mammoth system work?

In DAC, air is drawn into the system, where specialized chemicals isolate the CO2 molecules. Mammoth's design enables it to filter an impressive 36,000 tons of CO2 annually, a feat made possible by Iceland's abundant geothermal energy resources.

However, while the Mammoth system represents a monumental achievement in the fight against climate change, it's not without its challenges. The energy-intensive nature of DAC technology demands considerable power, although Iceland's geothermal energy provides a sustainable solution. Additionally, the current capacity of DAC plants pales compared to global CO2 emissions, highlighting the need for further advancements in the field.

Despite these hurdles, Climeworks remains committed to driving down costs and expanding its reach. With ambitious plans for future DAC plants in Kenya and the USA, supported by partnerships with organizations like Microsoft, Climeworks aims to remove a staggering 1 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2030.

While Climeworks leads the charge in CO2 filtration, it's not the sole player in the field. For example, the "Stratos" plant is designed to extract 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually from the atmosphere. However, here's where it gets tricky: this project receives backing from oil giant Occidental, aiming to utilize the captured CO2 for "improved oil production." This entails pumping the carbon dioxide into boreholes to access otherwise inaccessible oil deposits. Despite this, Climeworks remains dedicated to its mission to combat climate change through innovative carbon capture solutions, paving the way for a more sustainable future.