A start-up company in Oman called 44.01 was recently awarded a $1.2 million Earthshot Prize by Prince William of the U.K. The company, whose name corresponds to the molecular weight of carbon dioxide, is working on speeding up natural chemical reactions that take carbon from the air and lock it into solid mineral form.
The company’s location in Oman is no random occurrence. The mountains of northern Oman and along the coast of the United Arab Emirates are the site of a huge block of oceanic crust and upper mantle that was thrust upward some 96 million years ago. The tilted mass of rock is over 200 miles long and is the largest surface exposure of the Earth’s mantle in the world.
This type of rock, called peridotite, is rich in olivine and pyroxene, which react with water and carbon dioxide to form calcium-based minerals like serpentine and calcite that permanently lock in carbon. Other kinds of rock also are capable of carbon-storing mineralization, but this mantle rock is the most effective for the purpose. It only exists at the Earth’s surface in a few places, including Papua New Guinea and some spots in California and Oregon.
The 44.1 company is planning to use solar-powered direct air capture devices to remove CO2 from the air, use it to produce carbonated water, and inject the water into the reactive rocks. The company will operate a couple of pilot systems during 2023. Ultimately, the company believes it can scale up the process to be able to permanently sequester as much as a billion tons of CO2 a year by the year 2040 without needing to inject the gas into deep caverns or find other places to store it.
Photo, posted August 10, 2018, courtesy of JM McBeth via Flickr.