Saturday, October 01, 2016

Waste Carbon Recycling: Iceland Plant Turns CO2 Into Rocks

Waste Carbon Recycling: Iceland Plant Turns CO2 Into Rocks

Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

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Scientists at the Hellisheidi power plant in Iceland demonstrate that carbon dioxide emissions can be turned into stones within months. The new approach to curbing the gas emission involves pumping CO2 and water into volcanic rocks where chemical reactions with deep basalts and minerals transform it into a whitish chalky mineral.

The study published on June in the journal Science is part of Carbfix, a project at the Hellisheidi plant, the largest geothermal facility in the world which initialized in 2012. Although the concept has been known before, most scientists assumed that the process of turning the gas into rocks takes about hundreds or thousands of years, but the Icelander scientists showed that even 95 percent of CO2 can be solidified in just less than two years while the complete carbon solidification would take within 8 to 12 years.

“We need to deal with rising carbon emissions,” points out the study’s lead author Juerg Matter, a researcher from University of Southampton, UK. “This is the ultimate permanent storage—turn them back to stone.”

carbon dioxide
Hellisheidi geothermal power plant. Photo by Juerg Matter

“In the future, we could think of using this for power plants in places where there’s a lot of basalt—and there are many such places,” says study co-author Martin Stute, a hydrologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Aside from the team’s effort, other companies around the planet have also sought other methods to put power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions to good use. In fact, another research team wants to see if pumping carbon into another rock called peridotite can help transform CO2 into rocks even faster.

Exxon, a gas corporation in the US, supports research into creating fuel cells that convert carbon dioxide into energy. Another renowned American company, Ford, is a world leader in transforming gas emissions to solid foams which will be used in their vehicles’ interiors.