According to researchers at Columbia University, peridotite rocks could be harnessed to capture carbon dioxide in large quantities, potentially offsetting billions of tons of CO2 emissions each year. The rocks, found in Oman, California, New Guinea and elsewhere, produce calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate rock (both solids) upon contact with CO2.
Previous attempts to transport the rock to power plants and combine it with smokestack gases have been seen as too expensive. But the Columbia researchers have discovered a high rate of reaction underground—in the Omani desert, peridotite is naturally absorbing 10,000 to 100,000 tons of CO2 each year.
As a result, CO2 could be sent to the rocks at a much lower cost. Columbia’s scientists believe that they could speed up the carbon-locking process by 100,000 times by boring into the ground and injecting heated water containing CO2. And since the CO2 would be stored in the form of rock, there would be no chance of it leaking out.
The researchers have completed successful tests of their theory in Oman, and now want to test on a larger scale. Whether they will reap such successful results elsewhere remains to be seen.
Whatever the case, this is a promising development—carbon sequestration techniques currently run the risk of earthquakes or other natural events releasing massive amounts of buried CO2 into the atmosphere. Eliminating that risk makes the practice seem much more viable in the long term.
Photo Credit: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ariel Schwartz was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a contributor at Fast Company, Inhabitat, Triple Pundit, SF Weekly, and NBC Bay Area Online. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.