Natural gas lorries fill up from the air

A Swiss startup has opened up a facility in Italy that filters CO2 from the air and then converts into methane to fuel natural gas vehicles.

Climeworks has developed a technology that it calls direct air capture plants. These capture CO2 with a filter and are powered by either waste or renewable energy.

The Swiss startup has opened its second such plant, this time in southern Italy. According to a press release, the new plant can filter up to 150 tonnes of CO2 from ambient air each year. The plant also locally generates renewable hydrogen by making use of excess on-site photovoltaic energy.

The captured CO2 and renewable hydrogen are then catalytically methanated (a process called Power-to-Gas) in modular reactors by the French company ATMOSTAT. In a last step, the methane is liquified and used to fuel natural gas lorries. Meanwhile, waste heat retrieved from the reactors’ cooling circuits is extracted to operate the facility.

The new plant is part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 research project STORE&GO. The plant seeks to demonstrate the viability of large-volume energy storage through Power-to-Gas technology in real-life applications and will be operated for 4,000 hours over the next 17 months.

According to Climeworks, a complete transition to renewable energy will only be possible with sufficient large-volume energy storage, which at the moment is scarce in Europe. If the EU is to meet its renewable energy targets, “more energy storage is certainly needed”.

Climeworks opened its first direct air capture plant in Switzerland, not far from Zurich, which filters CO2 from ambient air and sells it to a nearby greenhouse to promote the growth of vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers.

Image credit: Climeworks

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