This new process may help prevent climate change

This new process may help prevent climate change

Process to turn excess CO2 into stone has excited researchers.

One of the major contributors to climate change is the amount of carbon-dioxide that is being released into the atmosphere, and a company in Iceland has found a way to store that gas in the ground, by turning it into solid rock.

An article in the Washington Post says representatives from Reykjavik Energy and a team of scientists from a large number of universities, including the University of Southampton in the U.K. and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, described the process in a new paper just released.

The project, titled CarbFix, involves injecting the carbon-dioxide into basalt rock, and there it becomes mineralized, or turned into rock, in a relatively short period of time.  The researchers were surprised to find that 95 percent of the gas had become mineral in just two short years.

“When we actually did it, it turned out to be two years,” said Martin Stute, a geochemist at Lamont-Doherty and a study author.  “We didn’t really expect that to happen ourselves, and we were very surprised.”

Although the amount of the injection in the new study was very small, about 250 tons of gas, the scientists are excited about the prospect of storing much larger amounts in the basalt, which makes up about 10 percent of the world’s continents.

Reykjavik Energy has increased its processing of the CO2 and injected 5,000 tons last year alone, and is looking to double that amount this year.  The ultimate goal for the firm is to store all the energy plant’s CO2 emissions, about 40,000 tons.

Edda Aradottir, an author on the paper who works for Reykjavik Energy, said “The capacity is, for sure, in the ground to take all the CO2, and much more, actually.”

The finding is important because the process happens on a human time-scale, according to Klaus Lackner, who heads the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University, who helped get the study started but was not involved in the writing of the paper.

“If [the process] takes 5,000 years, as it might in silicate formations, there really is not much of an advantage to forming minerals. It does not add much to the safety of the CO2 storage because on the relevant time scale the CO2 is still mobile and can come back,” adds Lackner.

The Iceland plant’s output of CO2 is small compared to the estimated 5 billion tons emitted by the United States each year, but the new process is showing great promise.

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