Iceland’s Turning Greenhouse Gases Into Stone

by Hannah Brown

Positioned near the Hellisheidi Power Plant in Iceland, researchers at CarbFix, a $10 million project funded by Reykjavic Energy, the United States Department of Energy, and the EU, among others, combines water and carbon dioxide, compressed to the point that is in its liquid form, and injects the mixture thousands of feet down into balsatic rock, a reactive volcanic rock that makes up almost the entirety of Iceland’s foundation, as well as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in general. The combination of carbon dioxide and water interacts with the rock as it releases calcium and magnesium and turns into the original mixture into limestone. Initially the model predicted that the process would take 5 years but CarbFix has found that it happens much faster than expected, essentially completing the transformation of carbon dioxide into limestone within one year. (or.is)

The team involved prefers not to label this method as a form of CO2 storage because, in fact, the CO2 is completely transformed. Instead, they refer to this process as “mineral carbonation.” The researchers say that this alternative to CO2 storage is, though initially more costly, cost-effective as the years progress. They argue that as opposed to CO2 storage, there is no chance that the CO2 could leak during its transformation process and therefore does not need the extensive monitoring that storage options require.

While this is all intriguing, some observers of CarbFix see the project as a misuse of funds and a misdirection of thought. Instead of funding research that releases us from the grasp of fossil fuel dependency, CarbFix and its procedure act almost like a bandaid. Instead of addressing the crux of the problem, they pose a superficial fix to the issue’s consequences. In this pessimistic view, CarbFix is unnecessary, but I believe that just as Dr. Matter, one of the lead CarbFix researchers and geochemists at the University of Southampton, says in an interview with The New York Times “the problem is big enough…we need many solutions.” CarbFix is not going to solve the issue of climate change on its own, but it can have an impact and ameliorate the negative effects that are currently occurring. (nytimes.com)

 

Fountain, Henri. “Turning Carbon Dioxide Into Rock, and Burying It” NYTimes.com. February 9, 2015

Halperin, Carrie and Fountain, Henry. “Fixing Climate in Iceland” NYTimes.com. February 9,2015

Reykyjavic Energy. “CarbFix” Orkuveita Reykavikur. or.is

 

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