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One Company's Way of Fighting Global Warming: Transforming CO2 Into Useful Products


Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is currently the most common solution proposed for reducing CO2 emissions. But surely there must be an alternative to just burying the greenhouse gas.

California-based Carbon Sciences thinks the answer to our CO2 problem is calcium carbonate—specifically, the company has invented a process to convert CO2 into calcium carbonate that can be used in everything from cosmetics to ceramics.

The transformation process works by using waste mineral products from mining operations— also known as tailings—as a feedstock to transform CO2 into mineral carbonates. The particles are processed into fine mineral particulates to maximize available surface area for reacting with CO2.

The process can use CO2 that has already been buried by CCS as a “seed” for transformation. And getting the CO2 out of the ground may actually be the safest thing we can do. While CCS is a useful way to take greenhouse gases out of the air, it has notable flaws. According to Carbon Sciences CEO Derek McLeish, an earthquake could release buried CO2 in a matter of seconds.

“There’s an infinite timeline when you bury CO2,” said McLeish. “Transforming CO2 into a high value product is much more like recycling.” Additionally, the commercial value of the product offsets the cost of traditional CCS.

Carbon Sciences plans to have a mini pilot plant ready in 24 to 36 months. And the company wants to move quickly from there. “We’ll be developing relationships and business opportunities the second we get through the mini pilot plant phase,” said McLeish.

If Carbon Sciences is successful, maybe we’ll be casually toting around CO2-derived products in our bags instead of hoping that a major quake doesn’t blow the stuff out of the ground.

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was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. 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.


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