World’s biggest carbon removal machine ‘freezes over’ in Iceland – illustrating the myth of future CCS

Global emissions of CO2 are around 36 billion metric tonnes from the burning of fossil fuels. Taking into account emissions from land use change, it is well over 40 billion. To prevent further climate change, very little more greenhouse gases should be added to the atmosphere, beyond what the natural carbon sinks (oceans, forests, vegetation, soils etc) can remove annually. So that means humanity should be removing many billions of tonnes of CO2, into permanent storage, each year. That is in addition to increasing the amount stored temporarily in trees and vegetation. So far the only machines doing carbon capture and storage (CCS) can only remove tiny quantities of CO2. Now the Orca machine in Iceland has had problems due to unusually cold weather … When working well, it might remove 4,000 tonnes per year (at huge cost). There would thus need to be 1 million such machines to remove 4 billion tonnes per year.  That really is not going to happen. Though there are many dozen CCS machines already working, most send the CO2 into oil reserves, for “enhanced oil recovery” (surely not the spirit of removing the CO2 in the first place – but profitable). Otherwise, who will pay to store the CO2, if it cannot be sold, for a profit?


Worldwide, flights produced 915 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019.

So to remove that much CO2 from the atmosphere each year would require about 220,000 machines, each removing 4,000 tonnes – into permanent storage, not just re-use.

If UK aviation causes the emission of 37 million tonnes, that means over 900 such machines would be needed – if each removed 4,000 tonnes per year.

World’s biggest carbon removal machine ‘freezes over’ in Iceland

Enormous device to halt global warming brought to heel by unusually cold weather

By Harry Cockburn
Environment Correspondent (The Independent)
Tuesday 19 April 2022

Freezing temperatures impacted components, which have now been upgraded to deal with the extreme cold of the Icelandic winter


The company running the world’s largest carbon removal machine has been forced to make modifications to the equipment after freezing weather in Iceland caused the technology to stop working.

As a result of the malfunctions in recent weeks, the Orca machine outside Reykjavik is running behind schedule and is still yet to hit its target of removing 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air each year.

The system, run by Swiss company Climeworks, was launched in September 2021 and works by drawing in air using giant fans and fabric tubes. This air is brought into contact with chemical filters which selectively capture CO2 while releasing other gases such as nitrogen and oxygen.

The pure CO2 gas is then mixed with water and injected deep into basalt rock, where it will mineralise into rock itself within around two years.

However, the cold Icelandic weather has caused setbacks, according to report in the New Scientist.

An especially cold winter this year caused basic mechanical complications with components such as belt drives particularly impacted by the freezing temperatures.

“It’s not high-tech stuff. We had to redesign parts of, not the core technology, but the technology around it, to adapt to the weather,” said Christoph Beuttler, head of climate policy at Climeworks.

After changes to some components, the system is again working as expected.

“It’s a very good example of how important it is to deploy now and to get the experience,” added Mr Beuttler.

Though it is the world’s largest such machine, the device is still operating on a small scale. Even when it hits full capacity, sucking up 4,000 tonnes of CO2 a year will deal with a tiny fraction of global emissions, which totalled 31.5 billion tonnes in 2020.

However, carbon capture technology is regarded as an essential tool in tackling the climate crisis, along with nature-based solutions for absorbing greenhouse gases such as forest expansion, regeneration of seagrass beds and peat bogs, as well as humans making radical cuts to emissions in the first place.

In its latest report the IPCC said it was “almost inevitable” that carbon capture technology would be required to help remove climate-altering gases from the atmosphere, but cautioned that such technology should not be a substitute for ending dependence on fossil fuels as soon as possible and cutting emissions.

According to the New Scientist, Climeworks is planning a bigger project called “Mammoth,” which could have 10 times the capacity of Orca.



But there are also widely-held concerns that industries and processes which already emit greenhouse gases could, or already are, using the burgeoning technology as a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card, in which they pin their future carbon reduction targets on installing or investing in GGR or CCS technology.

But there are also widely-held concerns that industries and processes which already emit greenhouse gases could, or already are, using the burgeoning technology as a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card, in which they pin their future carbon reduction targets on installing or investing in GGR or CCS technology.



The Global Status of CCS 2021 is now available for download.

There are now 135 commercial CCS facilities in the project pipeline (27 are fully operational) from a diverse range of sectors including cement, steel, hydrogen, power generation and direct air capture.


Report at

Lists a large number of CCS facilities, many now working already – most using the CO2 for “enhanced oil recovery.”  ie. using the gas to pump out more oil (that can then be burned to generate more CO2.  Not really the point, surely?

See pages 34 – 36


Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is considered a key technology for stabilizing climate change. However, leakage of CO2 from stored carbon can potentially undermine the value of carbon storage as a mitigation option. Thus, monitoring and verifiability of CO2 storage should be encouraged through policy provisions such as accounting and pricing of leaked emissions.

  • Carbon leakage from CCS can lead to up to 25 GtCO2 of additional emissions throughout the twenty-first century for a leakage rate of 0.1% per year.
  • CCS deployment is lowered, by as much as 30% (Fossil) and 10% (BECCS), when leakage is taken into account.
  • Carbon prices increase by around 5%.
  •  Overall policy costs increase by about 0.2–0.4 percentage points.
  •  If not taken into consideration nor priced, leakage contributes to an additional 0.01–0.02 degrees of temperature increase.
  •  China, Latin America, the U.S., and Canada have the highest expected leakage.



How the World’s First CO2 Pipeline Explosion Turned a Mississippi Town Into ‘a Zombie Movie’


Aug 27, 2021


A CO2 pipeline that ruptured in Satartia, Mississippi, forcing hundreds to evacuate. Yazoo County Emergency Management Agency

In February of last year, a CO2 pipeline exploded, engulfing Satartia, Mississippi in a noxious green fog that left residents confused, convulsing, foaming at the mouth and even unconscious — an episode that augurs danger for what could be a coming wave of new CO2 pipelines across the country, a 19-month investigation by HuffPost and the Climate Investigations Center reveals.

The reporting comes as the oil and gas industry is seeking to reinvent themselves, or at least their public image, through massive carbon capture and storage (CCS) investments that would include a whole new network of pipelines.

If and when these pipes leak, they will send clouds of CO2 (and in this specific case, poisonous hydrogen sulfide, which gave the cloud its green hue, rotten egg smell and particularly noxious respiratory impacts) into the surrounding environment, where it will displace the lighter air at ground level and threaten to cause “air hunger” and asphyxiate every oxygen-breathing organism incapable of escaping the area — made harder by the fact that gas- and diesel-powered cars also need oxygen to work.

“It was almost like something you’d see in a zombie movie — they were just walking in circles,” sheriff’s officer Terry Gann told HuffPost, while survivor Hugh Martin said the “only thing I been through worse than this was the gas chamber when I was in the Army training for Desert Storm, and that was cyanide gas.”

Bad as that may sound, though, the situation could have been significantly worse, as they actually “got lucky,” as Yazoo County Emergency Management Agency director Jack Willingham explained. “If the wind blew the other way, if it’d been later when people were sleeping, we would have had deaths.”

The Verge called its competitor’s reporting a “scathing investigation of the company, Denbury, that operates the pipeline,” and its headline exhorted readers to “Go read the harrowing story of the world’s first CO2 pipeline explosion.”

Effects from Satartia Gas Leak still linger for some in town.