An Icelandic startup has an intriguing solution to the emissions problem: turn carbon into stone. While it sounds like an evil power out of a fairy tale, and maybe there is a little bit of magic to Carbfix’s approach, we’ll assume its proprietary technology is scientific. Here’s how it works.
As most of us know, trees and plants bind carbon from the atmosphere. But, so do rocks. Carbfix’s technology just makes the process of the carbon getting into the rocks a lot faster. The startup dissolves carbon in water, which interacts with reactive rock formations, “to form stable minerals providing a permanent and safe carbon sink,” according to the Carbfix website. Carbfix injects this solution into the subsurface, adds a little proprietary technology, and voila, within two years the carbon has turned to stone.
Here’s what’s going on under the surface. The carbonated water is acidic and reacts with underground rocks. Over time, iron, calcium and other elements are released into the water, combine with dissolved carbon dioxide and form carbonates underground. Since they’re stable for thousands of years, we can consider the carbon permanently stored.
“This is a technology that can be scaled — it’s cheap and economic and environmentally friendly,” said Carbfix CEO Edda Sif Pind Aradottir, as reported by Bloomberg. “Basically, we are just doing what nature has been doing for millions of years, so we are helping nature help itself.”
Carbon emissions are the top reason for global warming and a major factor in extreme weather events and ocean acidification. Carbfix aims to cut climate change off at the knees and help the world reach the Paris agreement goals. The project first started in 2006. The following year, it was formalized by four founding partners: the University of Iceland, Reykjavik Energy, Earth Institute at Columbia University and CNRS in Toulouse. Additional research institutes and universities have also worked on the project in the last decade. In 2019, Carbfix became a subsidiary of Reykjavik Energy, then in 2020 it began operating as a separate entity. Its mission is to store one billion tons of CO2 by 2030.
Lead image via Pixabay