The Next 50 Years explores the technologies changing and improving our world.
At a terminal located about 20 minutes outside of Reykjavik, scientists have found a new way to eliminate carbon using volcanic rock.
Carbon dioxide is dissolved in water and injected into the ground where it reacts with natural rock formations, such as basalt. The carbonated water is typically denser than the surrounding water so it sinks once it’s injected. The reaction releases elements such as magnesium, calcium, and iron, which combine with the dissolved carbon dioxide and fills the empty spaces of the volcanic rock. It can remain stable for thousands of years in that state.
“If we manage to build up this method around the globe we can contribute to carbon neutrality and then even become carbon negative beyond 2050,” geologist Sandra Ósk Snæbjörnsdóttir said in a new Motherboard documentary.
According to its website, Carbfix has injected 72,269 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the ground since 2014. Iceland itself runs almost completely on renewable energy, which means that these terminals can eliminate carbon without emitting more.
Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, former president of Iceland and current chair of the Arctic Circle, says terminals similar to the one in Iceland could be built in other countries. “If my small country can have such a fundamental contribution to the global climate battle, what will happen if the big corporations, the G20 countries, the leading economic powers of the world, all come together in this campaign?” he told Motherboard.
The basalt, or volcanic rock, that’s used can be found on every continent. If it’s possible to complete the same process using sea water, the process could also be adapted in coastal areas and areas with scarce water resources. However, the locations of the terminals does not matter as much as how many are built.
“The challenge is not to build one terminal here in this area, the challenge is to build hundreds, thousands of this terminal in the next 10-20 years,” Grímsson said.
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