Volcanic rocks as a solution to climate change

There are many initiatives that are trying to curb climate change. Iceland is developing a rather curious one: injecting the CO2 we generate into volcanic rocks, removing it from the atmosphere and turning it into a mineral salt.

The United Nations announced last year that we only have 12 years to stop climate change, if not, its effects will be irreversible and catastrophic. Most countries are changing their energy models to the use of renewable energy to stop the progress of pollution, but others are trying to clean the air we have already polluted.

Iceland is responsible for a project that has been active since 2012, known as CarbFix. The initiative began by studying how basaltic rocks reacted to CO2, in order to do so, they injected carbon dioxide into the pores of rocks formed by lava in a cooling state. To his surprise, two years later, almost all of the injected CO2 had become carbonate minerals. These are salts found in minerals, such as calcite or aragonite, according to the World Economic Forum.

The place where CarbFix is ​​being developed is the Hellisheidi geothermal plant, about 30 kilometers from Reykjavik. There are many interested in this initiative. The Reykjavik energy company, the University of Iceland, the CNRS of France and the University of Columbia are currently working on it.

Hellisheidi is located on the Hengill volcano, just above basaltic rocks and an underground water stream that generates electricity and hot water for Reykjavik.

CarbFix operation
CarbFix operation. Source: World Economic Forum.

Although Iceland is famous for using geothermal energy in much of the country, these geothermal plants emit amounts of CO2, of course nothing comparable to fossil fuels.

It is this small amount of CO2 that they are converting into mineral salts. They collect carbon dioxide and dissolve it in water, which is then injected into the rocks. The team works so that the water used can be salted, since you have to use large quantities and, for the moment, it only works with fresh water.

CarbFiX researchers believe it could be used anywhere. Basaltic rocks are the most common type of rock on Earth, covering most of the ocean floor and 10% of the continents.

Although models like CarbFix are designed, which can remove CO2 from the atmosphere, it is vital that measures continue to be taken to eliminate CO2 emissions, since it would be impossible to install as many CarbFix plants as to eliminate all the CO2 we generate.

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