Iceland. Scientists say carbon sequestration is one way to stop climate change

Wednesday, 09 September 2009

Scientists gathered in Iceland are urging government leaders to pursue carbon capture and sequestration as a way of addressing global warming.

Scientists gathered in Iceland for a conference are urging government leaders headed to Copenhagen for climate talks later this year to pursue carbon capture and sequestration as a way of addressing global warming. As levels of planet-warming carbon dioxide continue to rise, this technique for removing excess carbon dioxide from the air and storing it safely underground must be part of the solution for solving climate change.

"We are in a mess with CO2," says Wallace Broecker, a climate scientist at Columbia University, "a mess that is cheaper to clean up now, than meeting the consequences of global warming later."

In a two-day conference on carbon sequestration, several research and pilot projects on carbon capture and geological storage were presented. Featured at the meeting was the CarbFix project, aimed at developing the technology and expertise for the permanent storage of CO2 as a mineral in rocks. This project will inject CO2 into the volcanic rock 30 km east of Reykjavik, Iceland.

The University of Iceland is leading the CarbFix project in cooperation with CNRS in Toulouse and Columbia University. Reykjavik Energy, the leading geothermal company in Iceland, is the main sponsor. The goal of the CarbFix project is to develop an industrial solution for storing carbon as a mineral in rock, where it is stable for thousands of years. Secondly, it aims to train young scientists to carry this development forward in the future. CarbFix is one of several projects looking to speed up the natural processes for taking carbon out of the atmosphere.

Scientists are already storing carbon dioxide in other ways. The Norwegian oil company Statoil Hydro has injected more than 11 million tonnes of CO2 deep under the North Sea since 1996. Tore Torp, a scientist from Statoil Hydro, discussed their successful activities at the conference.

To reduce the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere, it can be collected from industry gas streams or it can be collected directly from the air. To date, most research has focused on capturing CO2 where it is emitted, at electrical power plants for example. This requires local storage and transport. However, at the conference, Klaus Lackner, a scientist at Columbia, showed his designs for artificial trees that can soak carbon out of the air, offering the possibility that CO2 could be collected anywhere on the planet, including close to geological storage sites.

"The costs of global warming will grow, the longer we wait to do something about it," said Wallace Broecker in his talk. He urged policy makers to make funding of carbon sequestration a priority. He foresees an eventual global agreement on carbon emissions - a carbon pie in which nations divide the pieces. "When we see the limited slice each nation is going to receive, we better have the means to meet the limits," he says.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 09 September 2009 )