Climeworks – capturing your carbon footprint

Conversations around the environment seem to have been placed on the back burner of late amid the global pandemic. While the grounding of many planes, and the lockdowns of the world’s cities, gave the appearance of the world healing itself there is no denying that in a bid to safe the spread of Covid – 19 the suitability rules have been flung out of the window – single use products are back with a bang and taking the car alone is deemed safer than using public transport, but at what is that to the environment?

Even though the cries for climate action have been masked in recent months there is still great comfort to be taken from knowing the good fight continues and one of the companies vying for a place at the top of that billing is direct air capture technology (DAC) Swiss start-up Climeworks.

The company was founded by Christoph Gebald and Jan Wurzbacher as a Spin-off from ETH Zurich. So far they have raised CHF 120 million in investment and have 14 plants throughout Europe from Iceland to Italy, they are ten years into their projects and are becoming big contenders in the DAC market.

Climeworks founders C.Gebald & J.Wurzbacher in front of Climeworks plant, Copyright Climeworks – Photo by Julia Dunlop

Climeworks direct air capture plants capture CO2 with a patented filter and are powered by either waste or renewable energy. The air-captured carbon is sold to customers in the food, beverage and agriculture, and renewable fuels and materials markets.

The project in Iceland removes the carbon dioxide from the air and stores it safely and permanently underground. The carbon dioxide is removed with a technology called direct air capture, mixed with water, and pumped around 700m underground. “With the specific geological circumstances that you have up in Iceland, within a year or two, pretty much all the co2 that has been pumped underground is mineralised and stored there in the form of calcite rocks,” says Climeworks Chief Operations Officer, Dominique Kronenberg.

Climeworks CO2 turned into stone with the Carbfix process, Credit Carbfix – Photo by Sandra O Snaebjornsdottir

Climeworks introduced a service on their website where customers can pay a subscription to offset their own carbon emissions.

“We were able to prove that customers, both private people and corporates, were willing to buy our carbon dioxide removal service,” continues Kronenberg, “this was the kind of change that we felt coming over the last couple of years but it wasn’t something that we foresaw when we started the company.”

“The customers that we currently have are pioneering customers that have a strong belief that a technology like ours is needed to reverse climate change. They have a strong feeling that what we do and how we do it is the right way and they would like to support our mission by subscribing to our service. In their name, we permanently remove carbon dioxide from the air and give them access to immediate and direct climate action,” he says.

Blessed are we that companies like Climeworks make it possible for us to take responsibility for our impact on the planet and give something back in the fight to slow down climate change.

Climeworks are on a mission to inspire 1 billion people to remove carbon dioxide from the air.

Fiona Alston is a freelance journalist based in Ireland covering tech, innovation, start-ups and interesting SMEs. Alston is also passionate about athletics, health and horses having competed in triathlons, equestrian events and horse racing, and her lived experience comes through when covering sports personalities or fitness features. Growing up on the family farm in Scotland, Alston graduated from the University of Sunderland with a BA (Hon.) in Broadcast Journalism, and is frequently published in The Irish Times, The Business Post, RTÉ and 4i Mag.