Scientists in Iceland Turn CO2 Into Rock, May Herald A New Era In Combating CO2 in the Atmosphere And Thus Global Climate Change
Scientists in Iceland may have stumbled on a method for storing CO2 underground in rock, in such a way that it is unlikely to escape at some point in the future
In what many are hailing as a potential silver bullet to the problem of excess CO2 in the atmosphere that is driving global climate change, a project in Iceland known as CarbFix has been in the works since 2007 and is now bearing fruit.
While tiny Iceland with its population of 331,000 and its negligible output of carbon dioxide–40,000 tons annually compared with the U.S.’s 5 billion–might seem an unlikely place to deliver a balm for the problem of excess CO2 in the atmosphere, it is nonetheless being hailed as a boon.
Reykjavik Energy developed the scheme with a goal of taking some of the emissions of carbon dioxide from their geothermal plants–as well as emissions of hydrogen sulfide, a dangerous gas–and put them back in the ground at some 400 to 800 meters down.
The idea was to dissolve the gasses in large volumes of water and then pump it into porous, basaltic rock, which is a volcanic rock that forms from the cooling of lava and makes up a great deal of the underground structure of the island nation. There, the gasses and water would undergo a chemical reaction that turns the carbon dioxide into a carbonate. This occurs by binding it with the calcium, magnesium or iron that naturally occur in basalt.
The team–which includes scientists from Reykjavik Energy as well as scientists from a the University of Southampton in the U.K. and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University–has published its findings in “Science,” demonstrating not only that the process of injecting carbon dioxide into basalt rock works, but also that the carbon dioxide is mineralized, or turned into rock, in very short order. Indeed, it took just two years for over 95 percent of the injected carbon dioxide to become mineral, a finding that should strike hope in anyone concerned that the planet doesn’t have much longer if we continue spewing out greenhouse gasses at the current rate.
What this means in terms of the future of climate change and how we deal with excess carbon in the atmosphere–in light of sluggish political leaders and business leaders with their heads buried in the sand–is anyone’s guess. But at least knowing there is a chance of hope is greatly heartening.