Climeworks just raised $75M to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere

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Climeworks is a Swiss startup and ETH-spinoff that just raised $75 million in funding for “direct-air capture” of carbon dioxide, calling it the largest private investment in this pollution-mitigating technology, in a release.

Climeworks has raised $124 million since its 2009 founding from Swiss bank Zuercher Kantonalbank and undisclosed “private investors and family offices,” according to founder Christoph Gebald in a Bloomberg interview, where he also said that an IPO was an “option for Climeworks in the future.”

Direct-air capture, along with its mythic sisters, clean coal and carbon capture and sequestration, is a process where CO2 from fossil generators and industrial sources is captured, treated and injected into underground earth formations for permanent storage or for industrial use.

Depending on which climate scientist one consults, billions of tons of carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere and stored in this manner if we are to confront global warming. Most pathways to reverse global warming envision some use of this barely existent technology.

The startup has more than 100 employees in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands, and acquired direct air capture technology company Antecy last year.

CO2 from clean energy

According to the startup, its machine captures CO2 “directly from the air using clean energy, thereby offering a truly pure carbon dioxide removal solution.” The company then either stores the CO2 in the earth or the gas is used in enhanced oil recovery, new fuels, fertilizers or beverage carbonation.

The company claims that its machines are powered “solely by renewable energy or energy-from-waste” and that “out of 100 tons of carbon dioxide that our machines capture from the air, 90 tons are permanently removed and only 10 tons are re-emitted.”

One of the renewable energy sources Climeworks is using for its direct-air capture is the geothermal energy from Iceland’s Hellisheiði geothermal power plant — as part of its work with a storage process developed by Icelandic company Carbfix.

Carbfix mixes the carbon dioxide isolated by Climeworks with water and pumps it underground. According to the company, the carbon dioxide reacts with basalt rock and turns into stone within a few years.

Other companies in this field:

According to Bloomberg reports, the Climeworks process and other current processes are expensive — costing more than $250 per metric ton of carbon dioxide captured. Climeworks offers offset subscriptions at about $1,100 per metric ton.