Can trapping carbon dioxide in rocks stop global warming?
Researchers propose pumping damaging greenhouse gases deep into underground volcanic rock in Iceland
There are a number of off-the-wall engineering solutions for climate change (like, say, wrapping glaciers in protective sheets), but a new joint American-Icelandic venture might hold some real promise. The researchers behind this new project have proposed pumping carbon dioxide — the primary greenhouse gas blamed for global warming — deep underground, where it would turn into rock. This approach has never been tried before, but some scientists think it just might work. Here, a brief guide:
What exactly are these engineers proposing?The project, called CarbFix, is located in southwest Iceland, a geologically active area that's ringed by volcanoes and hot springs. There, the designers of CarbFix will take thousands of gallons of water infused with carbon dioxide — essentially seltzer water — and pump it underground into deep chambers of the porous volcanic rock known as basalt.
What good will that do?When the carbon dioxide in the seltzer water mixes with the porous basalt, the reaction between the two would create hard limestone rock in the spaces in the basalt. Since limestone is essentially calcium and carbon dioxide, this hardened limestone would lock the carbon dioxide in place, preventing its escape into the atmosphere.
Will this project work?Nobody knows. Nothing like it has ever been tried, and "scientists are already warning that even if successful, their plan is not a stand-alone solution" to the immense problem of greenhouse gases warming the planet, says Max Eddy at Geekosystem. Still, the sponsors of CarbFix expect this experiment will succeed — if only by training a new generation of scientists and engineers how to trap and store greenhouse gases.