25 March 2022. As the world struggles to implement the climate change goals set at the global climate summit that were most recently set in Glasgow in 2021, it is becoming clear that we will need to pursue many pathways and undertake several strategies to achieve our global climate change goals.
Even though renewable energy sources are coming to the forefront, most of the world's energy needs are still met by burning fossil fuels. This as we know, creates CO2 emissions that are directly linked to global warming. Jan Wurzbacher and the company he co-founded Climeworks seek to do their part in wrestling with this challenge.
Wurzbacher is a mechanical engineer and holds an MSc with distinction and a PhD from ETH Zürich. He wrote his dissertation on the ‘Development of a temperature-vacuum swing process for CO2 capture from ambient air’ and together with Christoph Gebald, he founded Climeworks in 2009.
Filtering the air
The focus at Climeworks is to filter CO2 from the air. To reduce CO2 levels long term, they are focused on removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it underground. Their first pilot plant Orca, located in Hellisheidi, Iceland permanently stores the captured CO2 one kilometer underground, where it turns to stone within 2 years. Wurzbacher believes that this technology can play a critical role in removing billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Currently Climeworks is an industry leader, and with several plants located in Europe, they have over 25,000 operational hours of expertise in carbon capture.
Not everyone agrees
Critics to carbon capture argue that direct carbon capture plants are energy intensive, that storage presents significant risks, and that one use for captured CO2 is to pump the gas into older oil fields thus increasing the amount of fossil fuels pumped from of those locations.