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7 June 2017

Switzerland Aiding Fight Against Global Warming with CO2 Extraction Facility

Img: Climeworks 
Talk of Global Warming is impossible to escape these days. Endless reports are being released prophesising the exponential growth in temperature over the coming years and pushing for changes to be made to prevent this happening. The levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are like nothing ever seen before and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 10 gigatonnes of it would need to be removed on a yearly basis in order to prevent global warming from continuing.

That’s a lot.

While there are plenty of things that people can do in their everyday lives to make a small change, many scientists and companies are looking for ways to make bigger strides towards these reductions. That’s where Swiss company Climeworks come in.

Last Wednesday they opened their carbon dioxide extraction facility, the first plant in the world that removes CO2 from the atmosphere and then sells it on for commercial purposes. Their aim is to use the extracted carbon dioxide for agriculture, synthetic-fuel manufacturing and fizzy-drink production with the hope of cutting global fuel emissions by one percent within the next eight years.

Their Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology works by blowing ambient air through specially designed boxes with filters inside. These filters become saturated and are then heated up to 100°C to extract the pure carbon dioxide. The process is then repeated. In doing this, the company is expecting to extract 900 tonnes of CO2 on a yearly basis, with the intention of increasing that as more plants are built – 250,000 by 2025.

Img: Climeworks
The facility has been built in Hinwil, Zurich, between a waste incineration plant and a large greenhouse owned by Gebrüder Meier Primanatura AG. The former will provide Climeworks with a source of heat and renewable electricity for them to run the facility, while the latter will act as one of their clients.

It was actually Gebrüder Meier’s firm which first inspired Climeworks’ founders Christoph Gebald and Jan Wurzbacher to embark on this project. They visited the their greenhouses while studying at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) and developed the idea to filter CO2 from the air and sell it on to Gebrüder Meier to cut out the emissions from truck deliveries.

Targeting CO2 in the air, as opposed to areas where emissions are in a significantly higher concentration like power plants, may not seem like the most efficient way of reducing global temperatures, but fighting carbon emissions in any form makes a difference. After all, carbon dioxide is reported to be the biggest cause of global warming.

Plenty of efforts are being made in other parts of the world to help in this fight against climate, including in the UK, and Climeworks facility is a welcome addition to these endeavours.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. When he’s not staying up late watching the Simpsons he’s beating the world at Mario Kart, always with a glass of wine in hand.