Become a member
Follow us:

The race to save the planet

Photos: Davide Monteleone/Institute

Follow us:

We know we need to slash our carbon consumption. But mass systems change, political change, and behavioral change take time. So how can tech help in the race to capture carbon and hack emissions? Photographer Davide Monteleone documents a brave new world.

It looks like sci-fi, but the cutting-edge technology being developed to help blast, pump and beam us out of our current climate crisis is real. 

And, when it comes to meeting global climate targets and mitigating carbon dioxide emissions, leading organisations such as the International Energy Agency and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have pointed to the use of carbon capture, usage and storage technologies as a crucial tool to help us get where we need to be more quickly.

So what kinds of technologies are we talking about exactly? That’s what photographer Davide Monteleone set out to reveal in his stunning new series, The Race to Save the Planet. The images below are the result of his year-long journey to document a world struggling to find solutions fast. 

A mini solar refinery on the roof of ETH University in Zurich, where Prof. Aldo Steinfield and his research team have developed a technology that produces liquid hydrocarbon fuels exclusively from sunlight and air.

Geodesic re-injection wells at Carbfix, Iceland. Geothermal water from the nearby Hellisheiði power plant and captured CO2 are mixed together and pumped underground, reacting with the porous basalt bedrock. This releases calcium and other elements that combine with the carbon and oxygen from the CO2 to form new carbonate minerals. After two years, these minerals have become solid, locked within the basalt pores.

The Transocean Enabler offshore drilling rig, in the North Sea, off the coast of Norway. The undersea well will permanently store CO2 at around 2,700 meters below sea level. Pipelines from Northern Lights’ onshore terminal will pump CO2 directly into the well where, CO2 will be injected into the subsea reservoir. The storage complex will have capacity for 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year. The overlying Drake formation shale provides a strong seal, which is important to ensure that the CO2 will not be able to migrate out of the reservoir.
Limestone cave
Inside Norway’s Dalen-Kjørholt Gruve, the world’s largest underground limestone mine. The limestone is used to process 1.3 million tons of cement per year at the Norcem cement plant above the mine. Norcem aims to become the first zero-emission cement plant by 2030. To do this they are creating more sustainable types of cement, using alternative fuels (now around 80%) and installing a carbon capture system. The carbon capture system is designed to capture half of the factory’s CO2 emissions, amounting to 400,000 tons per year, a large part of which will be kept in a North Sea storage location. The cement industry is the world’s second-largest industrial emitter of CO2 (6-8%), so industry changes have a global impact.

LC3 is a new type of cement developed at EPFL university in Lausanne, Switzerland. It can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 40% by lowering the required heating temperature from 1400C to 800C. Made using limestone and low-grade clays, which are available in abundant quantities, it’s cost-effective and does not require expensive modifications to existing cement plants. LC3 uses industrial waste materials, increasing resource efficiency and reducing the use of scarce raw materials.

The world’s oceans already hold around 38,000 billion tonnes of carbon. At Norway’s Espegrend Marine Research Field Station, scientists are exploring whether the ocean can absorb additional CO2 from the atmosphere by adding alkaline minerals and what influence this has on marine communities. Other marine researchers have warned that ocean alkalisation could wreak havoc on the marine food web.
Algae grown inside Vaxa Technologies at Iceland’s Hellisheiði geothermal power plant. By using the geothermal plant’s clean energy, hot and cold water and carbon emissions to produce its microalgae, the process is fully sustainable and carbon negative. The algae has a nutritional value that rivals beef, but with far fewer emissions. It takes only 15 days to grow a full crop and growing it indoors requires less water and fertilizer.

Basalt rock samples before and after being injected with Carbfix’s CO2 technology. The white spots are dots of calcite, locked within the pores of the basalt and formed as a result of carbon injection.

With ever clearer signs of global warming, carbon sequestration has become one of the most important drivers of new afforestation projects in Iceland. In this greenhouse, experiments with the European and Siberian larch have created a hybrid with a better growth capacity, locking carbon in more quickly.

We’re able to share tips like this because of people like you. Join others from around the world in supporting Imagine5’s mission towards a sustainable future. Become a member, or donate what you can. Find out more here

More stories from:

Ideas and innovation