Swiss renewable fuels and C02 extraction company, Climeworks, has opened its third Direct Air Capture facility. The plant, located in Troia, Apulia (Italy), uses solar energy to power an alkaline electrolyser to generate hydrogen while simultaneously filtering carbon dioxide from the air. The two are then combined and methanated (a process called Power-to-Gas) and used to fuel natural gas lorries. The Italian plant is slated to run for 4,000 hours over 17 months and is capable of filtering 150 tons of C02 from the air per year, and 240 cubic meters of hydrogen per hour.
As part of Europe’s Horizon 2020 program, Power-to-Gas technology like Climework’s shows important potential to capture and use atmospheric carbon and deliver steady and predictable fuel energy.
During the transition from carbon-based fuels to renewables like wind and solar, and with the rise of distributed energy production and increased energy demand, predictable and steady forms of less-harmful fuel production like Power-to-Gas are important because they utilize current infrastructure (such as natural gas and petroleum pipelines, internal combustions engines).
One important question is whether or not these so-called ‘bridge’ technologies divert attention and investment away from accelerating the transition to a sustainable energy system. Taking into account the social, economic and environmental costs of building and operating the plant, and also the opportunity cost of these resource inputs, is Climework’s Direct Air Capture facility a worthwhile solution, or merely a distraction from the energy revolution?