The world’s first commercial direct air capture (DAC) plant that collects atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) for supply and sale opened today (31 May 2017) in Switzerland.

The commercial-scale DAC plant in the town of Hinwil near Zurich uses technology patented by Swiss company Climeworks that captures pure carbon dioxide from ambient air using chemical filters. CO2 is chemically deposited on the surface of the filter and then isolated at a relatively low temperature of 100°C.

The gas has commercial potential in key markets such as commercial agriculture, food and beverage industries, the energy sector and the automotive industry.

The Hinwil plant will supply 900 tonnes of CO2 annually to help grow vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers in a nearby commercial greenhouse via an underground pipeline. It is currently running as a three-year demonstration project, powered by waste heat from a municipal waste recovery facility, in co-operation with commercial partners and some support from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy.

Fossil fuel industry derived CO2 has been used to enrich commercial greenhouse production for some time, but this is the first time that CO2 has been taken directly from the atmosphere.
Climeworks’ technology captures atmospheric carbon with a filter, using mainly low-grade heat as an energy source. 

The company’s founding engineers, Christoph Gebald and Jan Wurzbacher, see the operational plant as a historic step for negative emissions technology - the company's stated mission is to capture one per cent of global CO2 emissions by 2025 and the Paris climate agreement identified emissions reduction as vital to keeping global warming under two degrees.

In coming months, the company plans to launch additional commercial pilot projects in key target markets and wants to test its technology’s potential to deliver negative emissions by combining it with underground storage.

To see a video about the new Hinwil DAC plant click here.

Photo: Julia Dunlop (c) Climeworks