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Largest factory in the world to suck carbon from the sky and store it for millions of years lights up in Iceland


The “largest factory in the world”, built solely for the purpose of extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it, has just been commissioned in Iceland.


Built in the Hellisheidi geothermal park, the company hopes it is just a stepping stone needed to multiply the model by 80 and thus eliminate millions of tons of CO2 by the end of the decade.

A climate solution as direct as there may be, the Orcas factory, one of the many solutions to climate change offered by the Icelandic company Carbfix, takes CO2 from the air before separating the carbon from the oxygen, mixing it with water and sending it deep underground in formations basaltic rocks where it mineralizes.

With 16 sites recycling CO2, Climeworks, the Swiss company that supplied Orca with the CO2 intake fans, is extremely happy to have participated in a project that will permanently eliminate carbon, rather than just recycle it. They say green technology can be replicated easily and on a large scale, wherever there is renewable energy and storage available. Orca was built next to a local geothermal power plant, so it runs entirely on renewable energy.

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The company says it can extract 4,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year, the equivalent of taking 870 cars off the road. On its own, that’s a small impact for the $ 10 to $ 15 million it takes to build, but as companies press more and more to provide carbon offsets for their operations, the technology offers huge appeal though. costs go down and production is increased.

For example, offsetting emissions by planting trees is a good thing, but it takes 50 years for a tree to collect enough CO2 to actually sequester it. If the tree dies before this period, it is as if the company had done nothing.

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A Canadian company, Carbon engineering, which received $ 25 million in government funding, is building technology that directly captures CO2 from the air and stores it as compressed gas, or creates a near-carbon neutral fuel.

They are currently building what they call the world’s largest direct air capture plant in the southwestern United States which, when operational, will remove more than a million tonnes of carbon dioxide from atmosphere each year, or about the equivalent of 40 million mature trees.

But for Carbfix, knowing that the carbon is stored in the form of igneous or metamorphic rocks deep underground where it won’t emerge for hundreds of millions of years is the most verifiable way to demonstrate their commitment to tackle the climate crisis.

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