Iceland sits atop volcanic rock that has been discovered to relatively quickly transform carbon into solid carbonate minerals.
Earlier this week, world’s first negative energy plant opened in Iceland. The project, called Carbfix2, captures CO2 from the ambient air and uses basaltic bedrock as a reactor to create solid carbonate minerals. The operation will mitigate carbon emissions and produce ecological construction supplies.
The carbon removal solution comes from a partnering of geothermal energy company Reykjavik Energy and Swiss cleantech company Climeworks, and was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. The landmass of Iceland is approximately 90% composed of volcanic basalt, which both facilitates the technology and makes it difficult to replicate in other areas.
It’s well-known in research that any carbon injected underground will eventually become carbonate minerals, but this process can take hundreds or thousands of years. Basalt, however, is rich in calcium, magnesium and iron– all key minerals for carbonization. Last year, scientists affiliated with Carbfix published research reporting “between 95 and 98 percent of the injected CO2 was mineralized over a period of less than two years, which is amazingly fast.”
Now, the Carbfix2 project is mineralizing carbon at an industrial scale. The new carbon negative plant is located on the grounds of the Hellisheiði geothermal power plant. The plant is projected to capture 900 tons of carbon by the end of this year, which is roughly enough to offset the emissions of 55 average American homes. Furthermore, factoring in expenses, the processing of each ton costs about $600. Still, researchers are hopeful that the technology will continue to evolve, and carbon negative solutions have been highlighted as a major component of global strategies to combat climate change.
“The potential of scaling-up our technology in combination with CO2 storage is enormous,” said Climeworks CEO Christoph Gebald.“Not only here in Iceland but also in numerous other regions which have similar rock formations. Our plan is to offer carbon removal to individuals, corporates and organisations as a means to reverse their non-avoidable carbon emissions.”
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