HENGILL, ICELAND — Researchers are hailing a potential game-changer for climate change after successfully converting carbon to rock at a geothermal power plant in Iceland.
Humans release at least 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, but Iceland’s Hellisheidi power plant, that’s what they’ve been trying to do.
The unique project promises a cheaper and more secure way of burying CO2 from fossil fuel burning underground, where it cannot warm the planet. Such carbon capture and storage (CCS) is thought to be essential to halting global warming, but existing projects store the CO2 as a gas and concerns about costs and potential leakage have halted some plans.
The new research pumped CO2 into the volcanic rock under Iceland and sped up a natural process where the basalts react with the gas to form carbonate minerals, which make up limestone. The researchers were amazed by how fast all the gas turned into a solid – just two years, compared to the hundreds or thousands of years that had been predicted.