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The world's largest vacuum for removing air pollution has been unveiled. Learn about its functionality.

Large fans will draw in air for Mammoth, subsequently separating the carbon and relocating it underground to be converted into rock.

Climeworks' Mammoth plant will eventually be able to capture 36,000 tons of carbon from the air.
Climeworks' Mammoth plant will eventually be able to capture 36,000 tons of carbon from the air.

The world's largest vacuum for removing air pollution has been unveiled. Learn about its functionality.

Climeworks, a Swiss company, has unveiled its second commercial direct air capture plant called "Mammoth." This plant is 10 times larger than its previous one, Orca, which started operating in 2021. Mammoth's primary function is to absorb air and separate out carbon using chemicals. The carbon then gets injected deep underground, transformed into solid products, or reused. Climeworks, in partnership with Icelandic company Carbfix, plans to transport the carbon underground for natural transformation into stone, thereby locking it up permanently. This operation will be powered by Iceland's abundant, clean geothermal energy.

Direct air capture, or DAC, is a novel climate solution gaining attention from governments and private industries as humanity continues to burn fossil fuels. In 2023, record-high levels of planet-warming carbon dioxide concentration were reached in the atmosphere. With the planet heating up and causing detrimental effects on humans and nature, many scientists suggest finding ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere while also cutting down on fossil fuel usage. However, carbon removal technologies like DAC are subjected to criticisms for being costly, resource-intensive, and unproven at scale. Some advocates for climate action are also concerned that these technologies may distract from policies aiming to reduce fossil fuel consumption. When commenting on carbon capture technologies generally, Lili Fuhr, director of the Fossil Economy Program at the Center for International Environmental Law, expressed concerns about potential uncertainties and ecological risks.

Climeworks commenced building Mammoth in June 2022 and currently has 12 modular collector containers, with more set to be added soon. These containers serve as the vacuum components of the machine that captures carbon on their own and can be easily moved and stacked. Mammoth is designed to remove 36,000 tons of carbon from the atmosphere at full capacity, which equates to approximately 7,800 gas-powered cars being taken off the road for a year.

According to Stuart Haszeldine, a professor of carbon capture and storage at the University of Edinburgh, Mammoth is a crucial milestone in the battle against climate change as it enhances equipment for capturing carbon pollution. However, Haszeldine cautioned that it is just a small part of what's required.

Mammoth's modular design allows units to be stacked up and moved around the plant.

Currently, all the carbon removal equipment in the world is capable of removing around 0.01 million metric tons of carbon annually, which is significantly lower than the 70 million tons needed by 2030 to meet global climate objectives, based on the International Energy Agency's estimates. Even larger-scale DAC plants are in development by other companies, such as Stratos in Texas, which will be able to remove 500,000 tons of carbon per year.

Some critics are skeptical about the use and purpose of such technologies. For instance, Occidental, the oil company behind the Stratos plant, states that the carbon captured will be stored under the ground but also mentions captured carbon's use in enhanced oil recovery- a process where carbon is pushed into wells to help push out the remaining oil reserves from aging oil fields, thus enabling more fossil fuels to be extracted.

The co-founder and co-CEO of Climeworks, Jan Wurzbacher, is optimistic about DAC's potential, citing Mammoth as part of Climeworks' plan to scale up to 1 million tons of carbon removal annually by 2030 and eventually 1 billion tons by 2050. Future projects include possible DAC plants in Kenya and the United States.

Climeworks' Mammoth plant will eventually be able to capture 36,000 tons of carbon from the air.

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Source: edition.cnn.com

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