With atmospheric carbon soaring over 400 ppm earlier this year, many have redoubled their search for a viable way to capture and store emissions. Many of these schemes have involved buying the carbon emissions underground, but this puts us at risk for a whole host of other problems, and there’s no certainty that the sequestration would be permanent.
A new project out of the UK promises to forever revolutionize the way we approach carbon capture and storage. A research team comprised of members from the University of Newcastle in Australia, the Orica chemical company, and carbon innovation company GreenMag Group claims to have discovered a way to transform the captured CO2 emissions into carbonate rock ‘bricks’ for use in the construction industry.
Satisfied with early results in the lab, the team will now test this new method for permanently and safely storing carbon emissions in a $9 million mineral carbonation research pilot plant to be built at the University of Newcastle. The plant will use CO2 captured at Orica’s nearby Kooragang Island manufacturing facility in Newcastle.
“Mineral carbonation mimics and accelerates the Earth’s own natural carbon sink mechanism by combining CO2 with low grade minerals to create inert carbonates, which are similar to common baking soda,” explains Orica in a press release. These carbonates could then be formed into bricks and paving stones, permanently transforming what was once a deadly pollutant into a green building material.
“The Earth’s natural mineral carbonation system is very slow,” said Professor Eric Kennedy from the University’s Priority Research Centre for Energy, in a release. “Our challenge is to speed up that process to prevent CO2 emissions accumulating in the air in a cost-effective way.”
If successful, Orica chief executive Ian Smith told ABC that the technology will enable every power station in the world to capture carbon dioxide emissions and turn them into rock.