CarbFix

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CarbFix is a project in Iceland intended to lock away carbon dioxide by reacting it with basaltic rocks.[1] Work on the project began in 2007. The CarbFix team involves American and Icelandic designers researchers including Iceland geologist Sigurdur Reynir Gislason serving as chief scientist, project technical manager Bergur Sigfusson, manager Juerg Matter who works with Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and scientific overseer, Wallace S. Broecker (also with Columbia). Reykjavik Energy has supplied almost half the $10 million spent thus far on CarbFix. Other sponsors include U.S. and Icelandic universities. In addition to finding a new method for permanent carbon dioxide storage, another objective of the project is to train scientists for years of work to come.[2]

The Theory[edit]

Carbonated water is injected into the rock and hopefully reacts with the Ca and Mg present.[1] This is called enhanced weathering, Calcium and Magnesium are present in basalt - but rarely as simple oxides. Where the equations would be simple:

  • CaO + CO2 → CaCO3
  • MgO + CO2 → MgCO3

but Silicates of these minerals are common in basalt, so an example reaction might be:

  • Mg2SiO4 + 2CO2 → 2MgCO3 + SiO2

So CO2 gets locked away with no dangerous byproducts.

The Practicalities[edit]

Drilling and injecting carbonated water at high pressure into basaltic rocks at Hellisheidi [1] is not without cost.

This 10 million dollar project is due to commence carbon injection in October 2011.[3] The $10 million funding was supplied by the University of Iceland, Columbia University, France's National Centre of Scientific Research, the United States Department of Energy, the EU, Scandinavian funds and Reykjavik Energy.[3]

Possible Problems[edit]

These reactions are exothermic (and reversible if the rock is later heated)

The nearby Hengill volcano, generated a swarm of low magnitude earthquakes as a result of pumping water without the CO2, with 250 quakes being reported on the 13th of September[4] There have been earthquakes reported there due to the water pumping previously[5][6] Proceedings at the 2010 World Geothermal Congress showed that reinjection at Hellisheidi had induced seismic activity.[7]

Other Gases being Fixed[edit]

There are reports that not only CO2 is intended to be fixed. Hydrogen Sulfide may also be injected.[4]

References[edit]