We Only Need 900 More Every Year of the ‘Mammoth’ Carbon Capture Plant That Just Switched On

Climate Carbon Capture
We Only Need 900 More Every Year of the ‘Mammoth’ Carbon Capture Plant That Just Switched On

Swiss company Climeworks announced this week that their signature carbon capture facility, known as Mammoth, has been switched on in Iceland. The plant grabs carbon dioxide out of the air and sends it underground where it interacts with basaltic rock, storing it permanently. It is the biggest such facility on the planet. Great news! And now we just need 27 more of them on our way to net-zero!

Wait, sorry — that’s 27 more of them this year. That would bring the 36,000 tons of CO2 Mammoth can capture — well, once it is fully built, which it isn’t; so far Climeworks has installed 17 percent of the planned number of CO2 collectors — up to the million tons needed to match the International Energy Agency’s projections for a net-zero world.

Hold on a sec — okay actually the IEA says we need thirty-two of the million-ton variety of plant built this year, so really we need 28 Mammoths, and then 32 of that 28-Mammoth collection, or a total of almost 900 Mammoths. No problem, the one Mammoth that exists took three years to build, so we’re totally on the right track. Climeworks has a goal of reaching “megaton removal capacity” by 2030, or less than three percent of the total needed, eight years into IEA’s net-zero roadmap.

Assuming we manage the 900 or so Mammoth-sized plants this year, then all we have to do is build the same amount of them every year through 2050. Also, that IEA projection is two years old, so throw in a few hundred more for good measure. That’s… in the ballpark of 25,000 of the new plant, built in the next 26 years.

But okay that’s not quite fair, because Mammoth is not the only game in town. There are, in fact, around 20 functional direct air capture plants in North America and Europe. Before Mammoth switched on, they collectively could capture around 10,000 tons per year. So just take one-third of one Mammoth off that 900 plants per year total and we’re in business.

And don’t worry, there is help on the way. Like in Texas, where Occidental Petroleum has broken ground on the Stratos plant, which in theory will capture half a million tons per year starting in 2025. That’s closer to the megaton-scale plants the IEA wants — only 64 of them needed per year, for a quarter century; Occidental has said they hope to build 100 of them, so only 1,500 or so to go after that. And more good news, Stratos will only cost $1.3 billion, up from original estimates of $800 million.

Truly, almost like magic, the era of carbon capture is upon us.

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