Wanting to Tune the Air in the Stone — and overcoming Climate Change


One night in November 2016, Gebald was at a party in Marrakesh hosted by philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs. He felt he had no place among his guests, a team of meteorologists, freedom fighters, and policymakers in the COP city, the biggest annual climate event. During the trip, she met a man who liked to hang out with curly white hair. It was Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the recently retired president of Iceland. Gebald gave him the Spimeel spiel. “It’s so much fun!” Gebald remembers Grímsson’s words. “I can save CO2 secretly in my country. But we have always lacked the art of painting. “

Grímsson was referring to Carbfix, a publicly owned Reykjavik Energy company, which was developing a method of reducing carbon emissions by placing them in the ground. Reykjavik Energy also uses a number of fine and clean geothermal geothermal energy. Grímsson made the first statement, and soon, Gebald and Wurzbacher formed an alliance with Carbfix.

Icelandic officials may have been receptive, but Iceland was also relatively small. Wurzbacher and Gebald built a small experimental cottage with only one fan near Hellisheidi in 2017, but briefly “frozen,” says Gebald. One day when the temperature dropped below zero, steam from the hot and cold factory hit the empty metal parts of the machine, trapping them in ice. At one point, a hurricane nearly destroyed the entire multiton building. “We had to turn it down,” said Gebald.

Four years after the hit, Climeworks’ new plant, Orca (after the whales and the Icelandic word for “power”), came to the fore. It is located in the lush valley of the volcanoes, a short distance from the visitors’ area where the opening ceremony took place. Eight green olive-leaf boxes of the size of portable containers stand on concrete debris, connected by elevated pipes to a white low-rise building that is the focal point. Iron vessels, called CO2 collectors, led by big black fans who pull the air streams.

Inside the collection boxes, air passes through filters coated with amine-derived sorbents and other CO-containing compounds.2 molecules. The air fills the filter, like a watering sponge. At that point, the sliding gates shut off the air, and hot air is introduced from the cooling station to heat the filter to about 100 degrees Celsius, which emits CO.2. Vacuum drains the floating molecules into the control area, where shiny tanks, ducts, and other equipment compress the gas. It is then placed on a slightly lower igloo metal reef located several miles away, lying on the plain like the emergency houses of the Martians.

Large fans of Orca pull rivers into the sky.

Photo: Tanya Houghton

Photo: Tanya Houghton

Carbfix technicians and engineers drive the following processes. Inside the domes, a powerful engine pushes a stream of water into the injection well. Price CO2 the pipe loses air in the water. “It’s SodaStream in secret!” says Sandra Snæbjörnsdóttir, a Carbfix scientist with brown hair down to the very dark shoulders and eyes made of turtle shells that helped design the system. A few hundred feet below, the soda river sinks to the bottom, where it is affected by basalt deposits which convert it into solid salt. In other words, carbon dioxide is converted into rock, as is the worst in myths. “It is a natural way to store CO2, ”Says Snæbjörnsdóttir. There are many places to do this. All over the world, there are just a few species that are capable of storing tons of carbon.

At the most important level, the machines do what they are supposed to do: Climeworks emit air from the atmosphere, and Carbfix covers it secretly. And they all use geothermal energy, which produces a small amount of greenhouse gases. But the active part is still very strong, so it is expensive. The fans need electricity, of course, but more energy goes to burn carbon to release it from the sorbent.

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