Carbon dioxide is currently one of the most abundant greenhouse gases contributing to the issues of global warming and climate change. While researchers have been relatively successful at trapping environmentally-harmful carbon emission from the atmosphere, the problem of storing it safely has continued to plague today’s greatest scientific minds.
As part of a new study, a team has come up with an innovative, new way of sequestering the carbon absorbed from the air. Recently published in the Environmental Science & Technology Letters journal, the research reveals that injecting CO2 into basalt in turn causes it to transform into solid rock within just two years.
Formed several million years ago, as a result of rapid cooling of lava, basalt is a type of volcanic rock found in abundance across the globe. During their research, the scientists discovered that this particular rock is also capable of swiftly converting carbon dioxide into carbonate compounds that are stable.
According to the researchers, the stability of these minerals in solid form ensures that none of the stored carbon can escape into the atmosphere. To confirm their findings, the team injected a solution of CO2 and water into a basalt chunk in Iceland, a while back. Regular monitoring over the years has revealed that this process is indeed quite successful in stowing away carbon dioxide for good.
Back in 2009, the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) undertook a similar project, whose aim was to inject up to 1,000 tons of liquid carbon dioxide into basalt rocks in the eastern Washington region. Four years later, a group of scientists dug a huge well in the Columbia River Basalt formation, which was later injected with CO2.
In 2015, Pete McGrail and his team at PNNL returned to the well, where they collected a number of core samples. Laboratory studies showed that the sequestered carbon had turned into ankerite, a type of carbonate mineral containing iron, magnesium, calcium and manganese.