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| Human World on Dec 28, 2009

Juerg Matter on Iceland’s new carbon storage project

“We have a lot of discussion about energy here in the US and Europe and everywhere. Obviously, carbon dioxide storage is not the silver bullet solution for climate change, but it’s one of them, and it’s a good one,” says Matter.

Juerg Matter: Iceland is in the North, close to the polar circle, so they are the first ones to feel global warming, because their ice caps are retreating at a really, really fast pace.

Juerg Matter is a geochemist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. He talked to EarthSky about CarbFix, a new carbon dioxide storage project he helped establish near Reykjavik, Iceland. Matter said CarbFix will pioneer the technique of converting CO2 into solid rock. Carbon dioxide, or C02, is a greenhouse gas known to contribute to climate change.

Juerg Matter: We are in Iceland because there’s a specific type of rock – it’s basalt – and it allows the conversion, the change of the gas into the rock.

Beginning in 2010, he explained, CarbFix will dissolve a steady stream of CO2 waste from a local power plant and inject it into basalt. After interacting with basalt’s minerals, the dissolved CO2 – which is actually a seltzer-like liquid – will turn into minerals such as calcite, or dolomite.

Juerg Matter: Our goal is to store it in a more permanent form, because when you store it as a solid, it cannot leak back.

He added that one risk of the project is water pollution by metals pushed out of basalt by the reaction with dissolved CO2, which he said his team will closely monitor. Matter believes CarbFix will prove to have a very low environmental risk, and spark international interest.

Juerg Matter: Basaltic rocks occur everywhere. You can find basaltic rocks on every continent on Earth.

Matter mentioned especially large deposits in the Western United States and India. He hopes to see CarbFix technology exported, and used around the world.

Juerg Matter: I hope we can prove that our concepts that we tested in the laboratory also work in nature. We have a lot of discussion about energy here in the US and Europe and everywhere. Obviously, carbon dioxide storage is not the silver bullet solution for climate change, but it’s one of them, and it’s a good one. Our goal is to store it in a more permanent form, because when you store it as a solid, it cannot leak back.