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See how digital changes can help fight global warming

By removing carbon dioxide using direct air capture technology, Climeworks is working to achieve climate positive impact for the future of our world.


Call for change

On a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in 2018, Accenture Chief Technology Officer, Paul Daugherty encountered the Swiss company Climeworks—which focuses on permanent carbon dioxide removal via direct air capture. This nascent technology recently garnered strong momentum with the acceleration of U.S. legislation earmarking government funding to build regional direct air capture (DAC) hubs as part of broader pieces of legislation.

This highly promising solution helps remove the historically emitted CO2 from air, thus lowering the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere —crucial to limit global warming to safe levels. The air-captured CO2 can be permanently removed from the atmosphere as it is safely stored for 10,000 years or more.

In 2017, Climeworks commissioned the world’s first commercial-scale direct air capture plant. As Climeworks was working toward scaling up this much-needed climate technology, Accenture joined forces to accelerate this ambition.

When tech meets human ingenuity

Accenture, with its vast resources and varied offerings, was extremely well-positioned to help Climeworks grow and thrive and became the company’s Innovation Partner, to help identify and implement digital solutions to further its success. The partnership demonstrated not only the huge promise of the company’s technology, but also the breadth and depth of Accenture’s skills, industry expertise and capabilities around the world.

Leveraging its multi-industry perspective, Accenture helped Climeworks answer key questions about its go-to-market strategy. What are the use cases for the CO2 being extracted from the air? In which industries and markets can it be sold? These were the kinds of foundational questions that helped the company finetune its strategy.

Accenture and Climeworks embarked on several workflows:

Digital Plant solution:

Focusing at first on the facility in Switzerland, the teams worked together to build a digital plant solution that would help optimize operations by moving from reactive to proactive issue management. For example, the digital plant allowed for the real-time monitoring and detection of anomalies related to critical components; the optimization of energy consumption and the ideal balancing of performance, cost, and life cycle; and the correlating of CO2 production outputs and forecasts with weather and other factors.

Visual design of “Orca” plant:

Designaffairs, a company acquired by Accenture, did the visual design of the new Climeworks CO2 air capture plant in Iceland, working to harmonize the utilitarian structure with the breathtaking Icelandic wilderness landscape. The team traveled to Iceland and mapped the area with drones and other digital technology to get the aesthetics just right—a prerequisite of the Icelandic government. The plant received a “Green Good Design Award” from the European Centre.

Opening doors for additional partnerships:

Accenture introduced Climeworks to a variety of its longtime clients that were interested in the carbon dioxide removal technology. For example, Climeworks joined the Microsoft Startup Program and also gained Shopify as a client for its Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) as a service offering, with that company investing 23% of its $5 million sustainability fund. Accenture also connected Climeworks with some of its aviation clients, with the goal of ultimately forming a consortium of companies that could use the synthetic fuel created by the captured CO2. 

Throughout, Avanade (a partnership between Accenture and Microsoft) has been working to help Climeworks’ journey to the cloud, unifying what had been a fragmented IT system.

Re-design of the Orca plant in Iceland
Re-design of the Orca plant in Iceland

A valuable difference

The collaboration helped Climeworks make major strides on its scale-up roadmap. And one that promises to have a significant impact on global climate action —and help live up to the company’s vision of inspiring one billion people to be a part of their mission to remove CO2 from air.

Additionally, the successful digital plant solution is now used at the Orca plant in Iceland—the first in a planned program of scaling by building more facilities.

Most importantly, Climeworks has successfully taken major steps toward scaling their much-needed climate technology to fight global warming. Specifically, direct air capture combined with storage (DAC+S) produces Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) to achieve climate targets. All solutions need to work together in harmony to maximize progress toward the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.