Friday, June 10, 2016

Scientists Turn Carbon Dioxide Emissions to Stone

For the first time, carbon dioxide emissions from an electric power plant have been captured, pumped underground and solidified — the first step toward safe carbon capture and storage, according to a paper published Thursday in the journal Science.

“This opens another door for getting rid of carbon dioxide or storing carbon dioxide in the subsurface that really wasn’t seen as a serious alternative in the past,” said study co-author Martin Stute, a hydrologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York.

Scientists working at the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant near Reykjavik, Iceland, were able to pump the plant’s carbon dioxide-rich volcanic gases into deep underground basalt formations, mix them with water and chemically solidify the carbon dioxide.

When basalt — a volcanic rock that makes up roughly 70 percent of the earth’s surface — is exposed to carbon dioxide and water, a chemical reaction occurs, converting the gas to a chalk-like solid material. Scientists previously thought it wasn’t possible to capture and store carbon this way because earlier studies suggested it could take thousands of years for large amounts of carbon dioxide to be converted to chalk.

Scientists, working on a project called CarbFix, were able to do it in two years.

“The big surprise is that these reactions happen so quickly — even on an engineering project timescale,” Stute said.

Without carbon capture and storage, or CCS, it may be impossible to keep global warming from exceeding 2°C (3.6°F), according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Until now, CCS proposals have involved capturing carbon dioxide emissions at power plants, then storing them in liquid or “slurry” form underground where they would stay indefinitely.

Some scientists have said that there could be tremendous risks involved with CCS: The stored carbon dioxide could explosively leak into the atmosphere through fissures in the earth or be placed at risk by terrorism, creating a climate catastrophe.

Turning carbon emissions into stone would solve that problem.

Read more at Scientists Turn Carbon Dioxide Emissions to Stone

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