Sign In or Create an Account.

By continuing, you agree to the Terms of Service and acknowledge our Privacy Policy

Technology

Surprise! Climeworks Unveils Newer, Faster, Cheaper Tech

Twice the carbon capture with half the energy.

A Climeworks rendering.
Heatmap Illustration/Climeworks

Direct air capture is leveling up. In a surprise move on Tuesday, Climeworks unveiled new “generation 3” technology that it said can suck up twice as much carbon from the atmosphere using half the amount of energy as its previous designs.

The Swiss carbon removal company will premiere the new design in the U.S. at its Department of Energy-funded direct air capture “hub” in Louisiana, with construction to start in 2026.

Climeworks already operates the two largest direct air capture plants in the world, both in Iceland. Its first commercial-scale plant, Orca, was designed to capture 4,000 tons of CO2 per year. Just last month, the company turned on its second plant, Mammoth, which at full capacity is supposed to capture 36,000 tons per year. Now, Climeworks’ third generation breakthrough paves the way for it to build a plant capable of capturing one million tons per year, the company said — a nearly 28x increase.

Over the past five years, while Climeworks was building Orca and Mammoth, it had also been stealthily developing the next generation tech at its labs in Zurich and Basel with a 50-person team. Like the earlier designs, the new system uses a specially engineered material called a solid sorbent that attracts carbon dioxide molecules when air passes through it. But the company has overhauled both the chemistry of the sorbent and its structure. The new design has more surface area, enabling it to grab twice as much CO2 from the air. The company also said it expects the new sorbents to last three times as long as the previous material.

In addition to a new sorbent, the gen 3 tech will also feature an updated architecture described as “sleek modular cubes” that “increase capture efficiency, reduce costs, and boost robustness.” The new cubes will make the plants more compact, taking up half the footprint of an older plant with similar capacity. Renderings feature seemingly taller, boxier facilities compared to the earlier, more horizontally-oriented design.

A rendering of Climeworks\u2019 Gen 3 plant.Courtesy of Climeworks

Climeworks has already tested a full-scale model of its new cubes and says it has “confirmed the anticipated breakthrough in efficiency and performance.” It’s hard to know what that means, since the company has never shared its previous tech’s efficiency or performance. But halving its energy use would be a big deal, as that’s one of the most expensive parts of the process. Carbon is extremely dilute in the air, and these machines consume massive amounts of electricity and heat to extract it.

The company said the breakthrough puts it on track to achieve the cost reductions it has previously promised, with a goal of removing CO2 for $400 to $600 per ton by 2030. (The price range accounts for potential variations in the cost of electricity and CO2 storage in different locations.) That’s about half the amount Climeworks charges today, but it’s still expensive. Some carbon removal companies, like Lithos Carbon, which does enhanced rock weathering, and Vaulted Deep, which buries carbon-rich waste, have already sold credits for less than $400, so Climeworks already faces steep competition to bring its costs down.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect clarification from Climeworks on its 2030 price estimate per ton of carbon.

Green
Emily Pontecorvo profile image

Emily Pontecorvo

Emily is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Previously she was a staff writer at the nonprofit climate journalism outlet Grist, where she covered all aspects of decarbonization, from clean energy to electrified buildings to carbon dioxide removal.

Politics

Energy Is a Culture War

JD Vance is making the conversation less about oil vs. solar and more about us vs. them.

JD Vance.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

“We need a leader,” said JD Vance as he accepted the Republican nomination for vice president, “who rejects Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s Green New Scam and fights to bring back our great American factories.” The election, he said, is “about the auto worker in Michigan, wondering why out-of-touch politicians are destroying their jobs,” and “the energy worker in Pennsylvania and Ohio who doesn’t understand why Joe Biden is willing to buy energy from tinpot dictators across the world, when he could buy it from his own citizens right here in our own country.”

This is the tale Vance tells about energy and climate — one of contempt and betrayal, elitists sacrificing hard-working blue-collar Americans on the altar of their alien schemes. On the surface it may sound like it’s about jobs and economics, but it’s really about the eternal culture war that divides us from them.

Keep reading...Show less
Politics

AM Briefing: A Quick RNC Energy Recap

On Doug Burgum’s speech, green steel, and electric jets

What Republicans Have Been Saying About Energy at the RNC
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: The Acropolis in Greece was closed yesterday due to excessive heat • The Persian Gulf International Airport recorded a heat index of 149 degrees Fahrenheit • Recent flooding in Brazil exposed a 233-million-year-old dinosaur fossil.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Republicans slam Biden energy policy at RNC

Energy hasn’t dominated the conversation at the Republican National Convention this week, but it’s certainly been a talking point. Last night North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum gave a speech focusing on the topic. “Teddy Roosevelt encouraged America to speak softly and carry a big stick,” Burgum said. “Energy dominance will be the big stick that President Trump will carry.” He accused President Biden of making Russia and Iran “filthy rich” with his energy policies, blamed him for higher electric bills and grid problems, and said “four more years of Joe will usher in an era of Biden brownouts and blackouts.” Oh, and he promised that Trump would “let all of you keep driving your gas-powered cars.” CNN called the speech “Burgum’s audition to be energy secretary.”

Keep reading...Show less
Yellow
Technology

Florida’s Climate Tech Hub Has a Florida Problem

One of the most vulnerable states in the U.S. wants nothing to do with “climate change.”

A Florida postcard.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

The Biden administration loves a hub. There are the hydrogen hubs, the direct air capture hubs, and now there are the tech hubs. Established as a part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, the $10 billion program has so far seeded 12 such hubs across the country. Four of these are focused on clean energy and sustainability, and one is located in the great state of Florida, which recently passed legislation essentially deleting the words “climate change” from state law.

The South Florida ClimateReady Tech Hub did not, in the end, eliminate climate from its name. But while Governor Ron DeSantis might not approve, the federal government didn’t seem to mind, as the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration awarded the hub $19.5 million to “advance its global leadership in sustainable and resilient infrastructure.”

Keep reading...Show less
Yellow