Orca Plant; World’s Largest Machine Capturing Carbon Dioxide from Air


To stop or contain the severe imparts of global warming, there is need to not only minimize emission but also extract and store some carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. an engineered machines ‘Orca Plant’ can assist to remove or extract carbon dioxide from the air.

Climeworks has commissioned its new large-scale carbon removal plant in Geothermal Park in Hellisheidi, Iceland, on 8 September 2021. The Orca project aims to capture 4000 tons of CO2 per year – which is only a small fraction of global carbon emissions – that will then be stored underground and turned into stone.

Though current direct CO2 capture and storage technologies can offset only a tiny fraction of annual emissions, some climate scientists believe they will have an important role in limiting global warming and climate change in the future.

Orca is the World’s biggest direct air capture and storage plant that permanently extracts millions of tonnes of Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere. This machine is successfully launched by a Zurich-based Climeworks, which specializes in capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This newly introduced machine will take carbon dioxide removal to the level with the underground storage of carbon dioxide provided by Carbfix, an Iceland carbon storage company.

Working Principle of Orca Plant

The plant, called “Orca” after the Icelandic word for energy, first captures CO2 by collecting and filtering it from the atmosphere using Climeworks’ technology. The gas is then dissolved in water and injected underground into rock formations, where it forms solid carbonate minerals — a process provided by Carbfix. Orca plant, which runs off of renewable energy from the nearby Hellisheidi geothermal plant, can sequester up to 4,000 tons of CO2 per year, which is the equivalent of the annual emissions from around 800 cars.


The collector containers are the heart of the Orca plant: this is where the two-step process of capturing carbon dioxide takes place. First, the plant utilizes massive fans to draw in large amounts of air. Carbon dioxide is captured on the surface of a highly selective filter material that sits inside the collectors. Second, after the filter material is full of carbon dioxide, the collector is closed. The carbon-rich chemicals are then heated to about 100°C to release carbon dioxide as a pure gas.

Carbfix will then mix the pure CO2 gas with water and pump it deep underground. Through natural mineralization, the carbon dioxide reacts with the basalt rock and turns into stone within a few years. The carbon dioxide is thus removed from the air and returned to earth permanently and safely.

Leading scientific studies indicate that by mid-century, 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide will need to be removed from the air every year. Direct air capture is one solution that can help achieve this goal.

Direct air capture also provides a sustainable source of carbon dioxide. The gas is recycled from the air as useful raw material, maintaining a healthy balance of carbon dioxide in the air because no additional carbon dioxide is produced. Pure carbon dioxide can be used to produce renewable, carbon-neutral fuels and materials.

While direct air capture is still a new and rather expensive technology, carbon offset from Orca is already in such high commercial demand – including the likes of Bill Gates. The high demand has been surprising to some as the plant is costing as much as €1,000 ($1,200) for a tonne of CO2 removed.


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