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Climeworks’ Newest Direct Air Capture Plant Is Officially Live

Here are six things to know about it.

Climeworks' Mammoth station.
Heatmap Illustration/Climeworks

If one company has set the pace for direct air capture, it’s Climeworks. The Switzerland-based business opened its — and the world’s — first commercial DAC plant in 2017, capable of capturing “several hundred tons” of carbon dioxide each year. Today, the company unveiled its newest plant, the aptly named Mammoth. Located in Iceland, Mammoth is designed to take advantage of the country’s unique geology to capture and store up to 36,000 metric tons of carbon per year — eventually. Here’s what you need to know about the new project.

1. Mammoth is, well, huge

Mammoth is not yet operating at full capacity, with only 12 of its planned 72 capturing and filtering units installed. When the plant is fully operational — which Climeworks says should be sometime next year — it will pull up to 36,000 metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere annually. For scale, that’s about 1/28,000th of a gigaton. To get to net zero emissions, we’ll have to remove multiple gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere every year.

“The engineered solutions will have to play a major — and I would say even the major part of this task,” said Climeworks CEO Jan Wurzbacher at the virtual press conference for Mammoth’s unveiling. In his opinion, nature-based solutions “will not be able to scale to the level where we need them to be.”

So in the context of where we need to go, Mammoth is almost nothing. But in the context of our current reality, it’s nine times the size of the next largest DAC facility: another Iceland-based Climeworks plant called Orca. And it’s a major stepping stone towards the company’s ultimate goal of capturing a million metric tons of CO2 yearly by 2030 and a billion by 2050.

2. Construction happened quickly

Climeworks first broke ground on Mammoth in June 2022, and 18 months later the company announced that the “core pieces of the plant are built.” Now that the plant has started capturing CO2, Climeworks says the rest of 2024 will be devoted to installing the remaining CO2capture units and ramping toward full capacity.

Thus far in its history, Climeworks has largely avoided the construction delays that often plague first-of-its-kind projects. “They’re coming out with new projects every three to four years, which is a pretty wild timeline,” said Erin Burns, Executive Director of the nonprofit Carbon180.

3. It runs on 100% zero-emission power

Through Climework’s partnership with Icelandic geothermal company ON Power, Mammoth is powered in full by geothermal energy — although the company has long been reticent about how much energy, exactly, it needs.

At any rate, Climeworks has committed to powering the direct air capture process as well as its storage process with 100% renewables in the long run. The company cited Kenya, New Zealand, and Indonesia as other areas that would be geologically advantageous for future Climeworks facilities, as all have substantial geothermal resources.

4. The carbon is still quite expensive

Climeworks said it would be able to disclose an exact cost per metric ton of carbon removal figure after Mammoth has been operational for a year or two. But in the meantime, Wurzbacher said the company is “closer to the $1,000 per ton mark than we are to the $100 per ton mark.” He expects prices to drop as the company further scales, and is aiming for $300 to $350 per metric ton by 2030, and ultimately $100 per metric ton by 2050. That’s in line with the Department of Energy’s Earthshots initiative, which aims to reduce the cost of a variety of carbon dioxide removal pathways to below $100 per metric ton by 2050.

5. Climeworks has sold about a third of Mammoth’s lifetime capacity

While Climeworks hasn’t divulged Mammoth’s lifetime carbon removal capacity, it said the plant is designed to operate for 25 years, and that a third of its lifetime capacity has already been sold. The remainder will be sold in the next year or two, representatives told reporters

The company has offtake agreements with more than 160 organizations including some major corporate buyers such as JPMorgan Chase, Boston Consulting Group and Microsoft. Many of these agreements span a decade or more and involve tens of thousands of tons of CO2 removal from current and future Climeworks projects. (The company also recently opened a marketplace, Climeworks Solutions, to package and sell “high quality” carbon credits from other carbon removal companies.)

The Mammoth plant was primarily financed by Climework’s own equity, said Wurzbacher. “But going forward, project financing will be vital to accelerate the scale up. And for that, such long-term offtake agreements are important.”

Now that the plant is operational, it should help drive more investment, Dana Jacobs, chief of staff at the Carbon Removal Alliance, told me. “Having carbon removal projects that you can see and reach out and touch and understand is so critical,” she said.

6. Mammoth is small potatoes compared to what’s next

Climeworks said the lessons from Mammoth will help the company scale further as it enters the U.S. market through its participation in the Department of Energy-funded direct air capture hub, Project Cypress in Louisiana.

Climeworks is working on Project Cypress alongside developer Battelle and another direct air capture company, Heirloom. The project is designed to capture a million metric tons of CO2annually by 2030, and recently received an initial $50 million grant from the DOE to kickstart the project’s planning, design and community engagement processes.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with quotes and additional information from Climeworks’ team.

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Katie Brigham profile image

Katie Brigham

Katie is a staff writer for Heatmap covering climate tech. Based out of the Bay Area, she formerly worked as a reporter and producer for CNBC.com.

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