Zurich, Switzerland-based insurance firm Swiss Re and Swiss-based startup Climeworks are partnering to combat climate change by setting up world's first large-scale Direct Air Capture (DAC) + storage plant. The plant, known as Orca, will annually draw down a volume of emissions equivalent to about 870 cars.

Orca, the largest DAC plant in the world will open today (Sept. 8) in Iceland - 5pm CET / 3pm GMT / 11am EST.

Swiss Re and Climeworks have signed the world’s first long-term purchase agreement for direct air capture and storage of carbon dioxide, worth USD 10 million over 10 years.

The Orca facility consists of 8 collector containers, with an annual capture capacity of 500 tons each. The containers are arranged around a central process hall that accommodates all electrics, such as the processing unit, allowing us to operate and control the facility from afar. The heat and electricity required to run the direct air capture process is supplied by the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant. An important aspect was that Orca is smoothly integrated into the beautiful Icelandic landscape. Climeworks, therefore, says that it chose earthy colours and natural materials that give it a natural touch.

The technological carbon removal solution offered by Climeworks in Iceland filters carbon dioxide (CO2) from ambient air using geothermal energy. The captured CO2 is then sent for permanent storage in nearby rock layers. It is dissolved in water and pumped deep underground, where it reacts naturally with the surrounding basalt rock to form stable carbonate minerals – the CO2 literally turns into stone. This is considered the safest, most durable form of all carbon removal solutions that are commercially available today.

Further, Climeworks has also signed agreement with Carbfix for the safe storage of the CO₂ through underground mineralization. The underground basaltic rock formations in Iceland provide the ideal conditions for this process, providing a permanent solution for CO₂ storage. The energy required to run the direct air capture process comes from purely renewable resources and is supplied by ON Power, operating the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant.

Climework's machines consist of modular CO₂ collectors that can be stacked to build machines of any size. The startup's Orca plant will take carbon dioxide removal to the next level by combining Climeworks' direct air capture technology with the underground storage of carbon dioxide provided by Carbfix. Orca will capture 4000 tons of CO₂ per year - making it the world's biggest climate-positive facility to date.

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