Háskóli Íslands

Sigurður Reynir Gíslason, Research Professor at the Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland, and his colleague, Eric Oelkers, Research Director at Université  Paul-Sabatier in Toulouse and Visiting Professor at the Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland, are authors of the Perspective in the latest issue of the prestigious science journal Science published today. They point out that by accelerating carbonate mineral formation into basaltic rocks; it is possible to rebalance the global carbon cycle thus mitigating global warming. Gíslason and Oelkers have led the Carbfix research project using this method and its results are promising.
The projects field site is located in the vicinity of the Hellisheidi power plant in southwest Iceland where carbon is released as small bubbles at 350-m depth into down-flowing water within the injection well. The carbon bubbles dissolve in the water before it enters the rock and in time forming solid carbonate minerals; as explained in the article. The aim is to capture carbon dioxide and safely store it in subsurface rocks to mitigate its influence on climate change.

In their article “Carbon Storage in Basalt”, Gíslason and Oelkers point out that all carbon in the atmosphere, living creatures and the oceans is derived from rocks. The carbon moves from one reservoir to another in the carbon cycle. This cycle has, however, been tampered with by humans burning fossil fuel causing a rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide; one of the main reasons for climate change.

The CarbFix-project is promising according to Gíslason and Oelkers, as more than 80% of the carbon dioxide injected was carbonated within a year. Making it a save and permanent solution. This result suggests that the CarbFix method can change the time scale of mineral carbon trapping considerably.

The cost of carbon capture and storage methods is still quite high in comparison with the prise of emission quotas on the European Union Emission Trading Scheme, the world’s largest carbon market. The financial incentive is thus currently not sufficient for power – and industrial companies  to use this storage potential. However, the authors point out that further research and development is needed in this field but natural analogs have shown that up to 70 kg of the greenhouse gas can be stored in a cubic meter of basaltic rock. This means that the storage potential of all the ocean ridges is an order of magnitude larger than the estimated CO2 emissions stemming from burning all the fossil fuel resources on earth.

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