The Carbfix project was last week presented with the 2020 Ruggero Bertani European Geothermal Innovation Award from the EGEC (European Geothermal Energy Council). Scientists at the University of Iceland and Reykjavík Energy have been working on the project for over a decade, in collaboration with international partners. This award is given for outstanding innovation or research in the field of geothermal energy.
The Carbfix project was launched in 2007 with the aim of developing an industrial process to capture carbon dioxide from power plant emissions directly from the atmosphere and trap it in stone. Another goal was to train young scientists in order to ensure that the latest knowledge was quickly transferred to the next generation. The project has been awarded many large international research grants in recent years.
The founding partners on the project were Reykjavík Energy, the University of Iceland, Columbia University in New York and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Toulouse. Since then, a number of Icelandic and foreign institutes and companies have been involved in the project, with the current group comprising Reykjavík Energy, the University of Iceland, CNRS, Climeworks (an innovation company in Zurich), and Amphos21 (a consulting company in Barcelona).
Today, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide are captured from the emissions of the Hellisheiði Power Plant directly from the atmosphere. The gases are then released into water piped down into a borehole where, in time, they turn to stone deep underground.
A total of 13 PhD students have defended doctoral theses related to the Carbfix project, most from the University of Iceland, with a number of them now leading the project. Among them is Edda Sif Pind Aradóttir, managing director of Carbfix, the subsidiary company that Reykjavík Energy decided to create last year to help disseminate the knowledge across the globe.
The European Geothermal Innovation Award is usually presented at GeoTHERM, the largest annual European exhibition and conference in geothermal energy. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the conference was postponed, but the award was presented in an online ceremony last week. Carbfix shares the award with the German company Eavor.
Sigurður Reynir Gíslason, scientist at the University of Iceland Institute of Earth Sciences, is one of the founders of Carbfix and has chaired its science committee from the outset. He was of course delighted with the recognition. "The Innovation Award will spur the Carbfix team on to greater efforts in applying our method all over the world in order to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, thereby combating rising temperatures, rising sea levels and the acidification of the oceans," said Sigurður Reynir, who last year received the Knight's Cross of the Order of the Falcon for his contributions to Icelandic earth sciences and carbon capture.