Climeworks AG is a Swiss company specializing in carbon dioxide air capture technology. The company filters CO2 directly from the ambient air through an adsorption-desorption process. Climeworks refers to the filtering of CO2 from the ambient air for underground storage as carbon dioxide removal. The corporate offices of Climeworks AG are in Zürich.
Christoph Gebald and Jan Wurzbacher founded Climeworks in November 2009 as a spin-off from ETH Zurich. The two German founders were fellow students in mechanical engineering and had worked with technologies for chemical and physical CO2 in the context of their studies and subsequent doctorates.
In May 2017 the company opened the world's first commercial project to filter CO2 from the ambient air in Hinwil. It consists of 18 direct air capture modules that filter 900 tonnes of CO2 each year, which are then sold to a greenhouse operator for use as fertilizer.
In September 2021, Climeworks's Orca carbon capture plant came online. As of September 2021, it is the largest direct air capture facility in the world, capturing 4,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. Like the pilot project, the operating facility is located at Hellisheiði Power Station.
Climeworks has the only existing commercial direct air capture machine. Although several other companies aim to commercialize direct air capture systems (e.g., Carbon Engineering, Global Thermostat), Climeworks is the furthest along in the market process, selling to a comparatively small market in high-cost CO2 (i.e., CO2 used in greenhouses to enhance productivity may cost more than $1,000 per tonne if the greenhouse is located far from a source).
Climeworks offers its first corporate clients, Microsoft, Shopify, and Stripe; third-party verified CDR services carried out at Orca (carbon capture plant). Following a successful audit, Climeworks CDR Services received certification from DNV.
This market is too small to support a robust ecosystem of small innovators necessary to explore the large number of chemical recipes and physical machinery that might decrease direct air capture prices. Thus, like photovoltaics or hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, the development of direct air capture will likely require long-term government investment in incentives.
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