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Breakthrough CO2 project could help tackle climate change

Scientists have found a new method to fight CO2 pollution.
Scientists have found a new method to fight CO2 pollution. Reuters/Peter Andrews

In Iceland, scientists have turned carbon dioxide into stone in a matter of months by pumping it deep underground, offering a revolutionary new way of storing the greenhouse gas to tackle climate change. Experts believe the breakthrough experiment could be a vital step in the global battle to fight climate change.


Carbon dioxide is a key factor in global warming, and experts have long been calling for innovative "carbon capture and storage" solutions.

The pioneering experiment in Iceland worked by mixing CO2 emissions with water and then pumping it hundreds of metres underground into volcanic basalt rock where it turned into a solid.

"The idea was to react the basalt - the black rocks of Iceland, the volcanic rocks - with CO2 and CO2 mixed in with water," said Susan Stipp, who worked on the project.

"That was the breakthrough: pumping down CO2 mixed with water so that it could react with the rocks, and convert into carbonate minerals. The CO2 is then in solid form, and that's stable for centuries."

This method of coverting CO2 into solid matter is already is use on a small industrial scale.

But Siggi Gíslason, who chaired the project, believes that the method could be employed in power plants all over the world.

"The most obvious place to start would be to capture it from power stations where we have bassaltic rocks, and also places where we have water, and the best places for doing that is actually on the coastline where we are close to the sea because we can use sea water for this carbfix method," Gíslason told RFI.

"For example, in India, at your coal fire power plant close to the sea, you could simultaneously capture suplhur dioxide and carbon dioxide." 

The Carbfix project was championed by the President of Iceland, Ólafur Grímsson, 15 years ago, and subsequently received EU funding.

The study's researchers say that basalt makes up most of the world's seafloors and approximately 10 percent of continental rocks.

"Ultimately, what we would like to have is a portfolio, or a range of techniques," says Christopher Rochelle, an expert on carbon capture at the British Geological Survey in Nottingham.

"And then different countries with different rock types and different geological situations, pick methods that would be more suitable to them."

According to Oxfam International, climate change and economic inequality are inextricably linked and pose one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.

Tim Gore, a climate change expert for the charity, says that tackling the economic inequality that ‘carbon barons’ thrive on is critical to ending extreme poverty and fighting climate change.

"This is obviously a new technology and it remains to be seen exactly to what extent we can scale this technology up," Gore says.

"It won't be a silver bullet on its own, but it could play an important part in reducing carbon emissions worldwide. For people living in poverty all around the world, it's absolutely essential that we get carbon emissions out. Climate change is making the fight against poverty much harder, meaning more extreme weather events, more floods, more droughts, more crops being lost, making it harder for people to work their way out of poverty."   

Reykjavik Energy is a company that provides electricity to around 67 per cent of the Icelandic population.

Encouraged by the success of Carbfix, the company has scaled up the project and will be burying some 10,000 tonnes of CO2 each year from this summer.

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