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In Iceland, a new facility called Orca is pulling carbon dioxide out of the air so it can be stored underground.

Adelaide Calbry-Muzyka says the approach is critical to solving climate change.

“At the rate we’re going, we’re going to need to be removing CO2 from the air as well as reducing our emissions,” she says.

Calbry-Muzyka is an engineer at Climeworks, the company that owns Orca. She says the facility is powered by geothermal energy – heat from within the Earth – instead of fossil fuels.

At the facility, fans push air into filters, which trap carbon dioxide. When heated, the filters release the gas so it can be mixed with water. The carbon is then pumped underground where it turns to rock.

“Which means it’s trapped and it stays there,” Calbry-Muzyka says.

Orca will ultimately capture about 4,000 tons of CO2 a year. Calbry-Muzyka says that’s only a tiny fraction of what’s needed. But it’s an important step.

“It’s still the essential proof of concept that needs to be demonstrated before we can scale up,” she says.

Scaling up will require more renewable energy on the grid and policies that support carbon capture. But she says this technology may someday be an important tool to help reduce climate change.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media and Diana Madson