As the world continues to struggle to find ways to reduce carbon emissions, there is increasing attention being paid to so-called negative emission technologies (NET), which remove and permanently sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The University of Victoria in British Columbia has brought together an international team of experts to explore the possibilities of permanently and safely sequestering CO2 as rock beneath the ocean floor. The Solid Carbon Project seeks to extract carbon dioxide directly from the air and then, using deep-ocean technology powered by offshore solar and wind energy, inject it into sub-seafloor basalt, where it would mineralize into solid carbonate rock.
When CO2 is injected into porous basalt, a type of volcanic rock, it reacts relatively quickly with minerals to form solid carbonate, thereby permanently removing it from the atmosphere. Because 90% of the planet’s basalt is located beneath the ocean floor, the deep ocean is the place to do this kind of carbon sequestration.
The team includes experts in ocean science, carbon mineralization, renewable energy, engineering design, and oil-and-gas drilling/injection operations. Other experts are focusing on the social and legal implications of the NET technology.
Over the next four years, the Solid Carbon Project will assess the integration of multiple existing technologies that will be needed to successfully develop this kind of carbon storage. One of these is the direct air capture technology itself, which will need to be adapted to a renewable energy-powered offshore platform. The best outcome technologies explored by the project will be selected for a real-world demonstration at Ocean Networks Canada’s observatory site, 9,000 feet underwater in the Cascadia Basin, off the coast of British Columbia.
Photo courtesy of the University of Victoria.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.