You’d have to be living in a cave to avoid the battling voices surrounding climate change and the role that carbon emissions play in this global challenge. And while I won’t argue the value of discussing where to place blame, I’m much more interested in conversations that are forward-looking and explore what we can do about carbon dioxide. But even at that, the vast majority of what I hear has to do with lessening the amount of CO2 we put in the atmosphere. I’m cool with that, but what excites me even more is when I run into ideas that purport to tackle the carbon that’s already emitted.
I’ve run into a number of innovations that aim to gather CO2 and sequester it deep underground in caverns and even old oil wells (how’s that for irony?) But to date these solutions can’t put much of a guarantee forward that promises that there won’t be any leaks and all that expensive effort will be for naught.
Rather than capture and bury carbon, why not turn it into something truly benign? Sound crazy? Not really. A curious experiment in Iceland has done just that.
Studying carbon capture and storage (CCS) solutions led researchers from Southampton University in the United Kingdom to Iceland, where they injected 220 tons of carbon dioxide into the depths of the earth.
It turns out, if you pump a cocktail of carbon dioxide and water into underground volcanic basalt, the mixture turns into a solid rock. And once the CO2 turns into rock there is no risk of the greenhouse gas seeping out to warm the planet. What is exceptionally groundbreaking about this experiment is the amount of time the transformation requires. According to this BBC article, 95% of the 220 tons of CO2 injected into Iceland’s basalts was converted into limestone in less than two years. (more…)