Inaugurated Mammoth, the world’s largest direct air capture system for CO2 system

The site is located in Iceland and has an annual capacity about 10 times higher than its predecessor Orca

After Orca comes Mammoth. The largest direct air capture system for CO2 (DAC) and its geological storage went into operation on 8 May. Also in Iceland, as its smaller twin, and always operated by Climeworks, the Swiss company linked to the Polytechnic University of Zurich has been the forerunner in developing DAC technology on an industrial scale.

The new giant of direct air capture of CO2

Mammoth is about 10 times larger than its predecessor Orca and has a nominal capacity, once at full capacity, to capture 36,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere. Full operation should be achieved by 2024. At the moment, 12 of the 72 filters for direct air capture CO2 are active.

Filters are designed as modular units that can be added, increasing the total capacity of the plant. And they give flexibility: possible faults or maintenance needs have a more limited impact on the system. In addition, 3 filters are kept “in reserve”, ready to go into operation to compensate for the loss of other modules.

A tower reduces the energy intensity of the Mammoth DAC

As was already the case for Orca, the plant is powered by renewable geothermal energy, which covers about 29% of the Icelandic national electricity mix. The new plant, however, requires proportionately less energy to operate. Thanks to a key change in the process of storage of CO2 collection.

Mammoth uses a “tower” to dissolve carbon dioxide in water, which is then injected underground where the mineralization process occurs. On the contrary, Orca pumped CO2 into the storage sites in gaseous form, an operation requiring greater pressure, resulting in greater energy needs.

Towards plants of 1 MtCO2

With the launch of Mammoth, Climeworks takes another step forward in demonstrating the applicability of its DAC technology even in large plants. The company’s goals are to achieve a DAC capacity of 1 million tons of CO2 (MtCO2) by 2030 and 1 billion tons (GtCO2) by mid-century. To reach the goal set for this decade would take 28 plants of the size of Mammoth (against 250 similar in size to Orca).

A front that Climeworks is already working on. There are three proposed hubs for direct air capture of CO2 with a capacity of 1 MtCO2 advanced in the United States. All already funded by the Washington Department of Energy for a total of over 600 million dollars. The largest, Project Cypress in Louisiana, was granted the first $50 million in March to start the project. Other countries where the Swiss company is presenting projects are Norway, Kenya and Canada.

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