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April 29, 2014, 12:37

EU-funded Icelandic project achieves breakthrough in carbon capture and storage

Researchers working on the CarbFix project, carried out in Iceland and financed from the EU's seventh framework programme for research, have come up with a new way of storing carbon dioxide in deep rock formations that could become an important weapon in the fight against climate change. They published a paper on the results of their work in the Science magazine on Friday 25 April 2014.

The CarbFix project is a collaborative project of Orkuveita Reykjavíkur (Reykjavik Energy), the University of Iceland, Earth Institute - Columbia University, CNSR - The Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France as well as NanoGeoScience - University of Copenhagen and AMPHOS21 Consulting.

Working in Iceland, they injected CO2 dissolved in water instead of in its pure form into reactive basaltic rock. Within a year, over 80% of the CO2 injected successfully transformed into minerals. With the CO2 permanently stored, there is no buoyant CO2 bubble, and thus no risk of leakage. This new method, if scaled up, may provide a more secure alternative to the injection of pure CO2 into sedimentary basins.
The project’s implications for the fight against global warming may be considerable, since basaltic bedrock susceptive of CO2 injections is widely found on the planet: more than 10% of the Earth crust is basaltic. The main advantage of this innovative approach is the high reactivity of basaltic rock in water as compared to sedimentary rocks, which allows a quick transformation of injected CO2 to solid carbonate minerals.
The CarbFix project is a good example of scientific breakthrough in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The European Union has considerably promoted research in CCS within its Research Framework Programmes. It is a key technology to decarbonise the fossil fuels-based power sector and CO2 intensive industry. More than 80% of global primary energy use is fossil based. In the next few decades, even with an increasing share of renewables, fossil-fuel power generation will continue to form part of the EU energy portfolio, with new, unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas possibly playing a role.
Even if our energy system shifted entirely to renewable energy sources for electricity generation, there would still remain significant CO2 emissions from CO2 intensive industries, for example the cement, steel and petrochemical industries. Therefore, Carbon Capture and Storage remains indispensable to reconcile the demand for fossil fuels with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
More info:
The Project
Science magazine article
Video on CarbFix