Not satisfied with getting into the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Iceland is making another first. A negative emission power plant that actually pulls net carbon dioxide out of the air. We’re not just talking about carbon neutral here. This is carbon negative. The truth is, the world needs this kind of technology right now, because the problems associated with global warming isn’t going to go away just because Australia’s Prime Suppository says they will.
With dire predictions about what kind of climate our children and their children might be facing in the coming decades, cutting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions is no longer enough. What actually needs to be done is a program of removing excess amounts of the stuff from the atmosphere. A private company called Climeworks has partnered with Reykjavik Energy to run a power plant that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Before you ask, it’s a geothermal powerplant. Located in Hellsheidi, the power plant uses technology from Climeworks to remove carbon dioxide in the air and stores it deep underground as carbonates in basalt rocks. This is not the same thing as the ironically named “clean coal” technology which aims to store carbon dioxide as a gas underground. Storing the carbon dioxide as carbonates will be a more stable and permanent solution.
While the technology sounds brilliant, there’s a catch. It’s quite an expensive process to capture and store carbon dioxide. Plus, this single power plant can only store fifty tonnes of the gas per year. Sadly, that won’t be making much of a dent in the sum total emitted throughout the world. The true cost of accomplishing carbon dioxide removal will be in the many, many billions of dollars.
While Climeworks’ negative emission technology is still being developed, there’s no reason why other companies can’t find an alternate path to the same result. Certainly, the effort to ensure a habitable climate for future generations is a long term and very much worthy goal. It’s going to take a multi-pronged approach for success.