Environment: New plant sucks carbon dioxide out of air

A so-called CO2 vacuum cleaner has been put into operation in Essen.

Environment: New plant sucks carbon dioxide out of air

A so-called CO2 vacuum cleaner has been put into operation in Essen. The system filters the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, as the start-up Greenlyte Carbon Technologies (GCT) announced. The carbon dioxide can then be permanently stored or reused. It is already planned to be used for beer production by a local brewery and a concrete block manufacturer, said GCT co-founder and managing director Florian Hildebrand (33).

The demonstration plant, called “Greenberry 2,” is approximately five meters high and is the largest in Germany to date with an annual capacity of 100 tons of carbon dioxide. GCT plans to market such a system for the first time next year. A sale to a company in Canada is planned. GCT wants to build a third plant as part of a research project. According to Hildebrand, GCT then wants to build and sell a plant with a capacity of 1,000 tons “as quickly as possible.” The systems are operated with climate-neutral electricity, for example from wind or solar energy.

Because the process captures carbon dioxide directly from the air, it is called “Direct Air Capture” (DAC). According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), only 27 plants were in operation worldwide in July and another 130 were planned. The largest facility is on Iceland. It's called "Orca" and, according to the manufacturer Climeworks, has a capacity of 4,000 tons of CO2 per year.

A new and cheaper procedure

GCT says it has developed a novel DAC process in which the carbon dioxide first reacts in a solution and precipitates in the form of hydrogen carbonate. Dissolved in water, this substance can then be broken down in an electrolysis process. In addition to CO2, hydrogen and oxygen are also produced. According to GCT, the process can capture CO2 much more cheaply than with conventional processes.

The start-up was founded in September 2022 by two serial founders and a carbon capture researcher from Essen. Venture capitalists provided around eight million euros. GCT currently has 20 employees - and big plans: by 2050, they want to have built plants that can remove around a billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year. For comparison: According to the Federal Environment Agency, a total of greenhouse gases equivalent to 666 million tons of carbon dioxide were released in Germany in 2022.