The team found that when the rock, known as Peridotite, comes into contact with carbon dioxide it converts the gas into harmless minerals such as calcite. They have also worked out a way to ‘supercharge’ the naturally occurring process to a million times its normal speed to grow enough of the mineral to permanently store 2 billion or more tons of carbon dioxide annually. This equates to an astonishing 7 per cent of the total global carbon emissions from human activity each year.
Peridotite is found mostly in the gulf state of Oman, and is also the most commonly occurring rock in the Earth’s mantle. For now, the team, based at the University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, calculate that it would be too expensive to mine the rock and transport it to greenhouse gas emitting plants in heavily polluting countries such as the US, China and India.
However, since Oman is conveniently located near to a major oil-producing region, rocks found on the surface could still be used to work their magic. According to the team’s co-leader, geochemist Juerg Matter, “To be near all that oil and gas infrastructure is not a bad thing.”
At this stage, although the team have filed a preliminary patent for their process to kick-start the carbon storage process of peridotite, which involves drilling down and injecting the rock with heated water containing pressurised CO2, they say that more research is needed before the technology can be used on a commericial scale. If you’re interested in more information, team’s study will appear in the November 11 edition of the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences.
Image Credit – Fr Antunes via flickr.com on a Creative Commons license