Turning CO2 Emissions Into Stone

Columbia University Iceland CO2 research

Photo courtesy: Columbia University


Researchers experimenting with the storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the Hellisheidi power plant in Iceland stumbled upon a phenomenon that could lead to meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

According to a study published this week in the journal Science, a team of scientists and engineers from Columbia University, the Universities of Copenhagen and Iceland, and Reykjavik Energy (the plant’s operator) successfully converted CO2 into solid rock in just two years. Assuming the process would take centuries to achieve, researchers were shocked.

The results “just blew us away,” Martin Stute, the study’s co-author, told the Los Angeles Times.

Under the right conditions, though, the conversion can occur in just months, the study found.

Researchers injected 175 tons of pure carbon dioxide and later mixed it with hydrogen sulfide and water. The carbon dissolves amid the extreme water pressure, the study showed. The mixture was then pumped deeper into a layer of basaltic rock, where the mixture mineralized into stable carbonate within two years, the study found. The process is known as CarbFix.

“The results of this study demonstrate that nearly complete in situ CO2 mineralization in basaltic rocks can occur in less than 2 years,” the authors wrote. “Once stored within carbonate minerals, the leakage risk is eliminated and any monitoring program of the storage site can be significantly reduced, thus enhancing storage security and potentially public acceptance.”

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