Carbon dioxide has been a continuous source of problems for scientists, researchers, and industry figures alike. The increased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in recent decades has affected the environment in a negative manner – making it much hotter or colder in some regions of the world, melting polar ice caps, and even rendering multiple species exist. We can’t just “destroy” carbon dioxide however, as plant life do need carbon dioxide to survive, and among others. However, did you a company is actually starting to turn CO2 into rocks?
All of this is possible courtesy of the Hellishedi power station, situated about 15 miles from Reykjavik, Iceland. The plant is considered not only as the country’s main geothermal plant, but also as one of the largest worldwide. Aside from its impeccable ability to harness the heat from volcanoes in the surrounding region, it’s also home to an experiment that captures CO2 and turn them into rocks forever.
Edda Sif Aradottir, the Hellishedi station manager, said the project – called CarbFix – is geared towards reversing the otherwise-considered tipping point of worldwide CO2 levels. The journey has started since 2014, and the project itself is poised to clean up at least a third of the carbon emissions created by the plant.
Transforming CO2 into rock
The process of “capturing” carbon isn’t new to scientists – in fact, some of them have been experimenting with various carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies since the 70’s. However, CarbFix’s method it poised to be perhaps the most revolutionary courtesy of its speed and permanence. Its process begins with the capture of CO2 from the steam and its storage in huge quantities of water, in a “soda-machine” that does to CO2 what people do to make fizz on water. The “fizzy” CO2-liquid hybred is then sent to an injection site where it will be pumped 3,200 feet deep into the surface of the planet, where it will be solidified into rock. This happens when the liquid fills porous basalt, transforming it into a smoother version with CO2 in its pores.
Basalt is often called “carbon’s best friend” because its composition – iron, magnesium, and calcium – make them easy candidates for bonding with the CO2 and making it into a solid mineral. Iceland, in particular, is a good spot for this kind of CCS method because of its basalt amount. In fact, more than 10,000 tonnes of CO2 were already transformed into rocks in this process. Unfortunately, this still amounts to less than the yearly emissions of 2,200 cars in the United States.
A promising venture
The number becomes more significant when one takes into account just how much CO2 is pumped into the atmosphere – which is 30, 40 gigatonnes or a billion tonnes annually. However, CarbFix’s process is easy to repeat given how basalt is the most common rock on the planet, which means it’s something that can be achieved on a worldwide level. In fact, the Pacific Northwest, Saudi Arabia, Western India, and Siberia are home to large basalt regions.
The process also showed promise University of Iceland researchers further scrutinized the process in a desk-size replica of the plant. It’s been a previous consensus that it may take a few thousand years before the CO2 mineralizes into basalt, but it’s found out it only takes 400 days for these rocks to mineralize the gas. This was concluded to be because of the amount of water used in the process.
CarbFix is pioneered by an international consortium composed of Columbia University, the University of Iceland, the French National Centre for Scientific Research, led by Reykjavik Energy and is funded by the European Union.
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