Climeworks launched a demonstration plant in Troia, Italy that features the second-generation of Climeworks’ proprietary direct-air capture technology. The plant is coupled with modular reactors in order to catalytically methanate the captured CO2, turning the CO2 into a synthetic natural gas that can be used as a fuel. This process, called Power-to-Gas (PtG), is part of STORE&GO, a research project created by Horizon 2020 to find ways to optimize the long-term storage of electrical energy.
The Troia plant captures around 150 tons of CO2 annually. The captured CO2 is catalytically methanated with pure, renewably-generated hydrogen in modular reactors provided by ATMOSTAT, a French manufacturer. The gaseous methane is then liquefied, providing a renewable source of synthetic natural gas.
The whole plant was designed to maximize resource efficiency. The evolved, second-generation Climeworks technology requires less energy to operate than previous iterations in Switzerland and Iceland, and, just like in the other plants, the energy required is sourced locally: in this case, from the waste heat emanating from the modular reactors’ cooling circuits. Even the hydrogen generation is renewable: the alkaline electrolyzer that produces it is powered by excess on-site photovoltaic energy.
One of the current limitations of renewable energy is that it can’t be stored securely for long periods of time. Thus, excess energy generated when production is high (when there is extensive wind, for example) can’t be used to make up for an energy deficit when production is low. One of the goals of the STORE&GO research project is to alleviate this problem by finding ways to store large amounts of electrical energy. In the case of the Troia plant, the excess electrical energy is converted to a fuel that can be safely stored and used at any time.
The Troia plant showcases the versatility and flexibility of Climeworks’ technology. Climeworks’s plant in Switzerland vents its captured CO2 into a nearby greenhouse to fertilize the vegetables, demonstrating its value agriculturally; its plant in Iceland injects its captured CO2 deep underground, demonstrating the feasibility of long-term geological storage and the viability of direct-air capture as a NET; and now its plant in Italy methanates its captured CO2, demonstrating its use in fuel production and its value in the energy, fuels, and materials market sectors.
Although this plant is not technically a NET since it doesn’t close the carbon cycle, a shift to renewable fuels is an integral part of reducing global emissions.