Can turning CO2 to rock fight global warming?

Photo Credit: AFP PHOTO / Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Even Earth has its limits.

Too much carbon dioxide in the oceans makes the water more acidic. Too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere warms the planet. With emissions from our carbon-based economies still too high, researchers at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are turning CO2 gas to rock as a way to keep CO2 that power plants emit from ever entering the atmosphere.

CO2 gas mineralizes when it reacts with basalt, or volcanic rock, though this process typically happens over hundreds of thousands of years. Columbia’s research team, the Carbfix Project, sped up this process. They captured CO2 gas from an Iceland power plant, pumped it underground into basalt rock, and, in two years, found that 95 percent of injected CO2 gas became a white, chalky substance. The gas-to-mineral conversion rate stunned them.

Researchers are now scaling up the experiment by using rock in the Earth’s mantle and by exploring the possibility of storing CO2-turned-rock beneath oceans off US coasts.

“Iceland was a key demonstration,” said Lamont geophysicist David Goldberg. “The holy grail is off-shore.” Learn more.


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