The story goes that a company, called Climeworks, set up a steel-built carbon-capturing plant on a remote site in Iceland – we kid you not. The inspiration for the project found its roots in a way to recycle the carbon already present in the earth’s atmosphere.
It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but it's real enough and has been successfully drawing CO2 out of the air, Desmond Hinton-Beales of World Steel informed the POSCO Newsroom this time last year. As Hinton-Beales noted with regard to steel-built carbon collectors:
‘The search for workable decarbonisation tech has been ongoing for some time and the engineers at Climeworks have come up with a potentially workable solution. Indeed, the company is the first to operate a commercial carbon capture programme from ambient air, and steel is central to the technology’s design.’
Steel-built Capture Technology
It so happens that the huge machinery required to carry out the carbon capture looks like it's from a movie set. Towering out of the lonely Icelandic landscape, the plant loos like some sort of jet engine repair installation. The harsh arctic conditions are perfectly matched by steel’s corrosion resistance and innate endurance.
The nitty-gritty though has to do with the gigantic fans that draw the air through filters. At saturation point, the collected is sealed and then heated to 100 degrees centigrade. The detached molecules of CO2 are harvested.
The carbonated drinks industry and agriculture are only too happy to reap the benefits of steel-built carbon capturing. Hinton-Beales says that ‘Climeworks’ leading facility in Switzerland, pipes CO2 to a nearby greenhouse, and the company also has a deal in place with Coca-Cola.’
Steel-built Carbon Capture Rocks
There is more carbon that can be recycled to other industries though. The plan is to inject it into basalt rock. Over time, it mineralizes apparently.
Either way, it is safely sealed away for millennia they say. The final word belongs to Hinton-Beales, who realistically observed: ‘With solar energy 100 times cheaper than 50 years ago and wind energy around 50 times cheaper it is highly possible that efficiencies can be found. And, as with those renewable technologies, if this carbon capture programme is to achieve success it’s likely that steel will remain a key enabling factor.’
Steel-built carbon-capturing is the way of the future as things go. We, who understand, and respect all matters steel, will keep an eye on this remarkable technology and the firm role that steel plays in it.