Washing the Air

Preview image of “Washing the Air”
  • Iceland offers ideal conditions for the project
  • Photos: Unsplash (Josh Reid), Audi AG
Audi will use the plant to scrub 1.000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year

Audi is aiming to get closer to its climate goals with a carbon capture facility in Iceland.

Founded in Zurich in 2009, Climeworks has a grand vision. It wants to filter one per cent of global annual CO2 emissions from the air by 2025. To achieve this, the Swiss firm works with a “direct air capture technology” extracting carbon dioxide from ambient air and releasing CO₂-free air back into the atmosphere. Investors clearly believe in the development – to the tune of over 120 million Swiss francs in venture capital. And German heavyweight Audi has been associated with the company since the year 2013.

Now, Climeworks is taking the next big step. In January 2021, the first construction phase for the world’s largest direct air capture and storage facility in Iceland was successfully completed. Iceland offers ideal conditions for this process – its energy-rich geothermal heat provides cheap, CO2-neutral energy for operation. And more importantly, the CO2 can be permanently stored underground in the rock through natural processes.

After commissioning, the plant will filter carbon dioxide from the atmosphere 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That would correspond to 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, or the equivalent of 80,000 trees. A quarter of the annual amount will be removed from the atmosphere on behalf of Audi, allowing the company to partially offset their global emissions. Hagen Seifert, Head of Sustainable Product Concepts at the car giant, says: “In addition to reducing emissions, adsorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is an important measure from a scientific point of view for achieving the Group’s climate targets. By participating in Climeworks’ CO2 capturing project, we are contributing to decarbonisation.”