page contents Turning carbon dioxide into rock – forever – The News Headline

Turning carbon dioxide into rock – forever

Geothermal energy generation at HellisheidiSymbol copyright
G Svanberg

Symbol caption

Harnessing the facility of the volcanoes: Hellisheidi is Iceland’s biggest geothermal plant

Nested within the snow-covered mountains of western Iceland, a maze of generators and pipes belches thick billows of steam. This mammoth construction is answerable for offering energy to a rustic the place 100% of the electrical energy comes from renewable assets.

The Hellisheidi energy station, 25km (15 miles) out of doors Reykjavik, is Iceland’s primary geothermal plant, and is among the biggest on this planet.

“Do you are feeling the vibrations underneath us?”, says Edda Sif Aradottir, the plant’s supervisor, splashing snow as she stomps her boot at the floor. “It is the steam getting into the generators”.

Symbol copyright
A Saeberg

“This can be a volcanic space. We harness the volcano’s inside warmth to generate electrical energy and supply scorching water for the town’s heating gadget, our swimming swimming pools and showers. We Icelanders like our showers in reality scorching!”

Hellisheidi is not only an completed supplier of inexperienced power. Additionally it is the web page for a systematic step forward; an experiment to seize carbon dioxide (CO2) and switch it into stone – endlessly.

Thus preserving this greenhouse gasoline out of the ambience and striking a dent in world warming.

We now have already reached the tipping level for CO2 ranges within the environment and excessive occasions will occur if we do not act temporarily and follow each answer to be had” ____________

Edda Sif Aradóttir, CarbFix


“Mankind has been burning fossil fuels because the business revolution and we’ve already reached the tipping level for CO2 ranges”, says Dr Aradottir. “This is among the answers that may be carried out to opposite that”.

Known as CarbFix, the undertaking is pioneered by means of a global consortium led by means of Reykjavík Power, the French Nationwide Centre for Medical Analysis, the College of Iceland and Columbia College.

Symbol caption

In November Hellisheidi hit a big milestone, it hosted the sector’s first “unfavorable emission” gadget, in a position to sucking CO2 from the ambience and storing it underground

Since experiments started in 2014, it is been scaled up from a pilot undertaking to an everlasting answer, cleansing up a 3rd of the plant’s carbon emissions.

“Extra importantly, we’re a checking out floor for a technique that may be carried out in different places, be energy plant, heavy industries or every other CO2 emitting supply”, says Dr Aradottir.

Making soda

With emerging concentrations of atmospheric CO2, scientists had been checking out “carbon seize and garage” (CCS) answers because the 1970s.

CarbFix, then again, sticks out amongst CCS experiments since the seize of carbon is alleged to be everlasting – and rapid.

Symbol caption

Waste CO2 from the steam (I) is going to the gasoline separation station (II) is diluted in water (III) piped to the injection web page (IIII) and pumped underground the place it mineralises into rock

The method begins with the seize of waste CO2 from the steam, which is then dissolved into massive volumes of water.

“We use an enormous soda-machine”, says Dr Aradottir as she issues to the gasoline separation station, an business shed that stands at the back of the roaring generators.

“Necessarily, what occurs this is very similar to the method on your kitchen, when you’re making your self some glowing water: we upload fizz to the water”.

Symbol caption

Within the injection web page, the CO2 is pumped underground at excessive force

The fizzy liquid is then piped to the injection web page – otherworldly, geometric igloo-shaped construction 2km away. There it’s pumped 1,000m (three,200toes) underneath the skin.

In a question of months, chemical reactions will solidify the CO2 into rock – thus combating it from escaping again into the ambience for tens of millions of years.

Symbol caption

Underground, the CO2 answer comes into touch with basalt and becomes white, chalky calcites that fill the pores of the rock

Symbol caption

Sooner than and after: porous basalt (left) and basalt with mineralised CO2 inside its pores

On this apparently magic feat, native geology performs a key section.

Porous rock

The breath-taking Icelandic panorama – with its scorching springs, geysers and black seashores – is principally manufactured from basalt, a dark-grey porous rock shaped from cooling of lava.

And basalt is “carbon’s absolute best pal”, as it comprises excessive quantities of calcium, magnesium and iron, which bind with the pumped CO2 to assist it solidify right into a mineral.

Symbol copyright
S Gislason

Symbol caption

The CO2 is blended with water, which has confirmed key to rushing up the solidification

Symbol copyright
S Gislason

Symbol caption

The injection web page is within the neighborhood of the mammoth geothermal plant

Sandra Snaebjornsdottir, a geologist operating for CarbFix, has the proof in her palms: a cylindrical pattern drilled out from the web page presentations a smattering of chalky crystals encrusted within the basalt.

“Those white bits are carbonates, or mineralised CO2”, she says. “Recent basalts are like sponges, with a variety of cavities which might be full of the CO2.

“Iceland is especially beneficial for this sort of CCS merely on account of the quantity of basalt it has got”.

Closing yr, 10,000 tonnes of CO2 have been “digested” by means of CarbFix.

But that is tiny fraction – lower than the annual emissions of 650 Brits or 2,200 American vehicles.

Symbol caption

After the primary pilot, samples of rock have been drilled out from the bedrock to test whether or not the CO2 had solidified

And it turns into much more insignificant in opposition to the 30-40 gigatonnes of CO2 (a gigatonne is a thousand million tonnes) that trendy people pour into the ambience every year.

In spite of its somewhat small scale, mavens look forward to CarbFix might be simple to copy – because of the ubiquity of basalt all over the world.

“Basalt is if truth be told the most typical rock kind on Earth, it covers lots of the oceanic flooring and round 10% of the continents. Anyplace there may be basalt and water, this type would paintings”, says Sandra Snaebjornsdottir.

Massive basaltic spaces are present in Siberia, Western India, Saudi Arabia and the Pacific Northwest.

And scientists are actually taking a look at checking out the type at the oceans to make the most of the huge spaces of submarine basalt formations.

Symbol caption

Sandra Snaebjornsdottir is in command of checking out leads to CarbFix

Probably, basalt may resolve all of the global’s CO2 issues says Sandra: “The garage capability is such that, in principle, basalts may completely dangle all of the bulk of CO2 emissions derived from burning all fossil gas on Earth.”

Very thirsty

On the College of Iceland, analysis round CarbFix has been proceeding since its pilot section.

A desk-size copy of the pipes and pumps in Hellisheidi in a state of the art lab permits Prof Sigurdur Gislason to scrutinize the method.

“Sooner than the injection began in CarbFix, the consensus throughout the medical group used to be that it might take many years to 1000’s of years for the injected CO2 to mineralise”, says Prof Gislason explains.

“Then we discovered that it used to be already mineralised after 400 days”.

Symbol caption

Iceland’s capital Reykjavik runs on renewable energies, and is among the greenest towns on this planet

Reactions have been so much quicker than expected in part on account of the huge quantities of water used to dissolve the CO2.

This then again issues to probably the most undertaking’s Achilles heels – it is rather water extensive.

“It wishes over 25 tonnes of water in step with tonne of CO2,” says Prof Gislason. “In Iceland we’re blessed with a number of rain, however if you’re doing this at the basaltic spaces in India… their water may be very valuable”.

The bottleneck now could be law, we would possibly not resolve local weather alternate except CO2 emitters are required to pay a value within the vary of 20 to 70 euros in step with ton of CO2 emitted” ___________

Prof. Sigurdur Gíslason – Institute of Earth Sciences, College of Iceland


Some critics warn high-tech fixes reminiscent of this one pose a larger possibility – that of distracting researchers and the general public from the urgent want vastly to cut back greenhouse gases ranges.

In a contemporary record, the Eu Academies Science Advisory Council warned that such applied sciences have “restricted lifelike possible” if emissions don’t seem to be lowered.

“CarbFix isn’t a silver bullet. We need to reduce emissions and broaden renewable energies, and we need to do CCS too,” says Prof Gislason.

We need to alternate the way in which we are living, which has proved very exhausting for other folks to grasp.”

A part of our sequence Taking the Temperature, which specializes in the combat in opposition to local weather alternate and the folk and concepts creating a distinction.

This BBC sequence used to be produced with investment from the Skoll Basis

Illustrations by means of Jilla Dastmalchi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *