Meet the entrepreneurs who capture carbon dioxide and hope to turn it into fuels

The race is on to prove that CO2 can be taken from the air and recycled into profitable, carbon neutral fuels. But cost and investment obstacles remain.

By Mark Harris, The Guardian.

In an industrial greenhouse about 30km from Zurich, plump aubergines and juicy cherry tomatoes are ripening to perfection. Growing Mediterranean crops in Switzerland would traditionally be energy intensive but these vegetables are very nearly carbon-neutral. The greenhouse uses waste energy from a nearby refuse plant, and carbon dioxide from the world’s first commercial direct air capture plant.

The facility, designed by Zurich-based start-up Climeworks, pumps the gas into greenhouses to boost the plants’ photosynthesis and increase their yield, it hopes, by up to 20%. Climeworks says it will extract around 900 tonnes of CO2 a year from the air.

The company’s end game is not plumper tomatoes but something far more ambitious – proving that carbon dioxide can be recycled from the atmosphere and turned into something useful. If this installation is a success, Climeworks wants to sell its concentrated carbon dioxide to companies producing carbon-neutral hydrocarbon fuels.