World’s Largest Carbon Capture and Storage is switched on in Iceland


Iceland’s Hellisheiði geothermal power plant has been home to CarbFix operations since 2014 (Credit: Arni Saeberg)

On September 8th, Carbfix announced that they are switching on the Icelandic Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) plant, Orca, one of the biggest Carbon Capture and Storage in the world.

Orca will be absorbing 4000 tonnes of Carbon dioxide annually.

Carbon Capture and Storage is one way to fight climate change and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

Let’s take a look at Orca and how Carbon Capture and storage works and how effective they can be.

What is Carbon Capture and Storage?

Before we take a look at the amazing thing Orca can do to help fight climate change, let’s first understand what Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is.

Like the name, the idea behind CCS is to capture carbon dioxide and then store them away instead of releasing them into the atmosphere. You must be thinking why? What’s the difference?

When carbon dioxide is injected deep into the ground, near the sedimentary rocks, or in areas of depleted gas and oil, the carbon dioxide can become carbonized. What this means is that the carbon becomes stable and “it is turned into a harmless carbonate mineral, such as calcite – one of the main components of marble and limestone.”

With the unique properties of Icelandic Basalt rocks, the solutions are easily injected and the minerals already in the rocks also help in converting and storing the carbon dioxide.
Let’s take a closer look at Orca – the world largest Carbon capture and storage.

Orca – Turning Carbon Dioxide into Rocks

Carbfix's Carbon Capture and storage diagram
Diagram from Carbfix’s Official Site
Orca, in Icelandic means ‘energy’, and the purpose of the Orca CCS is to capture the carbon dioxide that is released by Iceland’s Hellisheidi power plant, the world’s largest geothermal facility.

During the development phase, Orca had surprising results and gave the researcher from Carbfix and Climate hope and a positive outlook.

The Hellisheidi power plant currently pumps volcanically heated water to run electricity-generating turbines but at the same time, this also brings up volcanic gases, including carbon dioxide and nasty-smelling hydrogen sulfide. With Orca, it will be able to collect the carbon dioxide (230 tonnes) and then dissolve it in water and re-inject them into the basalt layer of earth (around 400~500m deep).

The result showed that in 2 years 95% of the carbon dioxide injected was turned into rocks. Luckily, Carbfix and Climeworks’ Orca is able to overcome many conventional CCS issues.

Orca’s Carbon Capture and Storage’s Breakthrough

Basalt rocks that are crucial to Orca's Carbon Capture and Storage
Carbon Capture and storage are not new, and many places are already using them. However, Orca is somewhat different, with new technologies and methods, they were able to fix some of the issues that other CCS are facing.

Compared to the conventional CCS, Orca was able to overcome the issues of water and others. It is said that for every 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide, a large quantity of water is needed, fortunately, Orca was able to use ocean water instead. Which opens up a lot of opportunities for shore-line machines in the future.

In addition, unlike conventional CCS that pumps carbon dioxide in gases, liquid, or other forms, and then installing a cap to prevent the leakage of carbon dioxide. Orca dissolves carbon dioxide with water which makes it less likely to be released into the atmosphere. In addition, the porous basalt rocks in Iceland also help the carbon dioxide sink down.

Plus, the water can be reused once mineralized, thus, reducing the chance of water scarcity or damage in the process of carbon capture.

Other breakthroughs include Orca’s ability to get rid of hydrogen sulfide, a water-soluble gas that is often released with geothermal energy. Other pollutants known as SOx and NOx (sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides) could also conceivably be captured using CarbFix.

Orca is truly a big step in fighting climate change and hopefully, we will be seeing more CCS around the world.

Why we need Carbon Capture and Storage

Smoke released into sky with Carbon dioxide
Although we are making more sustainable and eco-friendly changes, the truth is that the amount of carbon emission has only increased.

It was revealed that with just 20 firms, they are producing ⅓ of the world’s carbon emissions. Not only is reducing the amount of carbon we produce important, but it is also important to deal with the amount of carbon that has already been released. If we can reduce or stop them from being released, it can significantly help fight climate change.
Check out the latest IPCC report breakdown and why we must take action while we still can.

The CEO of Carbfix, Edda Aradottír is excited. With Orca working and their team continuing to improve and with the help of Climeworks, other CCS and more affordable and efficient carbon capture are in the near future.

Right now, the most cost-effective way is to install CCS near the source of carbon dioxide, such as heavy industries, or power plants. But in the future, Aradottír and her colleagues are hopeful and excited for both on-site capture and direct air capture (capture in the atmosphere anywhere).

In addition, the co-CEO and co-founder of Climeworks, Christoph Gebald is also optimistic about the future of the carbon capture industry. He hopes that they will be able to make carbon capture much more affordable and normalized.

Suck it, Carbon Dioxide

As more and more companies are aiming to become carbon neutral and governments are funding them. Ethical Choice is happy to share such news!

Let’s hope for more news like this will continue to come and that we keep on the work on our side too, in order to leave a beautiful earth for our future ourselves.

For more details, check out How Iceland is undoing carbon emissions for good

Author: Monica Chang
Director of Ethical Choice
I am passionate about finding amazing sustainable and eco-friendly products and sharing them with more people. Interesting in plastic-free, reduce waste, and DIY.