Groundbreaking Carbon Removal Plant Unveiled in Africa

A ground-breaking project aimed at reducing carbon output within the atmosphere is set to be established in Kenya – the first of it’s kind on the African continent. This initiative, a direct air capture plant, represents a partnership between Swiss company Climeworks and Kenya’s own Great Carbon Valley, aiming to eliminate as much as 1 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually.

Unveiled in September, this endeavour is envisioned as a catalyst for ushering in a green economy in Africa, a region poised to witness substantial investments in climate-related ventures, projected to reach trillions of dollars in the years to come.

Direct air capture involves the extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and its subsequent storage underground, a process demanding significant energy resources. This technology has elicited diverse opinions within the scientific community. While some climate experts view it as a vital component of a comprehensive strategy to combat global warming, others contend that it risks diverting attention from the essential task of drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions by transitioning away from fossil fuels on a large scale.

The Renewable Energy Institute is committed to raising awareness and spreading knowledge on the renewable energy transition. Our Accredited Master in Renewable Energy Award provides the most comprehensive training in the industry. Once awarded, businesses and professionals alike will achieve a mastery in fully understanding the steps needed to end the global reliance on fossil fuel consumption.

Bilha Ndirangu, CEO of Great Carbon Valley, emphasises the urgency of global decarbonisation efforts and the importance of fostering investments and innovations in this direction, with a particular focus on Africa.

The rationale for prioritising investments in Africa is further underscored by the disproportionate impacts of climate change on the continent, including devastating droughts and floods, despite Africa’s relatively minimal contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. Recent discussions at the United Nations and the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi accentuated the need to attract more capital to the continent, where 70% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population is under the age of 30.

However, calls for investment in Africa come with a cautionary note from watchdogs who advocate for stringent safeguards to protect local populations and prioritise their safety and rights over profit-driven foreign investment from the global North.

Carbon removal companies, like Climeworks, generate carbon credits equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide captured by their facilities. These credits can be purchased by companies to offset their carbon emissions, enabling them to claim carbon neutrality while continuing to rely on fossil fuels. Critics, including climate scientist Jonathan Foley, argue that such practices enable fossil fuel companies to maintain the status quo without substantial reduction in emissions.

The direct air capture plant, due for completion by 2028, will be situated in the Great Rift Valley, an area rich in deep basalt formations stretching across Kenya, from Tanzania to Ethiopia.

Ndirangu views the project as an opportunity for Kenya to combat the climate crisis, create employment opportunities and expand its renewable energy infrastructure. Kenya boasts abundant renewable energy sources, including geothermal, solar and wind power, but these resources remain underutilised. Carlijn Nouwen, co-founder of the non-profit Climate Action Platform for Africa, believes that the energy-intensive Climeworks project could attract investments in Kenya’s energy grid, potentially benefiting its citizens, provided that appropriate policies are enacted.