From thin air to stone: Green­house gas test starts in Ice­land

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Lifestyle -

A SWISS com­pany will start to ex­tract car­bon diox­ide from thin air in Ice­land on to­day, seek­ing to trans­form the gas into rock far be­low ground in a first test of a costly tech­nol­ogy meant to slow cli­mate change.

The engi­neer­ing ex­per­i­ment, by Swiss firm Clime­works with Reykjavik En­ergy, will cost hun­dreds of dol­lars to ex­tract each tons of green­house gases from na­ture and en­tomb it per­ma­nently un­der­ground.

Clime­works plans to suck 50 tons of car­bon diox­ide from the at­mos­phere over a year - roughly the green­house gas emis­sions of a sin­gle Amer­i­can fam­ily - us­ing spe­cial fans and chem­i­cals in the Euro­pean Union­backed project.

The gas will be dis­solved in wa­ter and piped about 1,000 me­ters (3,300 ft) un­der­ground, where Reykjavik En­ergy says car­bon re­acts with basaltic rock and turns to stone.

The hope is that the high costs will fall. “This is small scale, but the main rea­son is to pre­pare a scale-up” of the tech­nol­ogy, Jan Wurzbacher, di­rec­tor and founder of Clime­works, told Reuters be­fore the for­mal launch on Thurs­day.

He said it was the world’s first test to twin car­bon cap­ture from air with car­bon burial.

Edda Sif Aradot­tir, the project’s man­ager at Reykjavik En­ergy, which has in­jected car­bon from the Hel­lisheidi geo-ther­mal power plant into the ground since 2007, said most has turned to stone within two years, cen­turies faster than pre­vi­ously es­ti­mated.

“It’s a very en­vi­ron­men­tally be­nign method of re­duc­ing emis­sions,” she said. She said that there were sim­i­lar basalt de­posits in many parts of the world.

World­wide, ris­ing tem­per­a­tures are on track to ex­ceed goals set the 2015 Paris cli­mate agree­ment to curb green­house gas emis­sions that are blamed for stok­ing heat waves, down­pours, more pow­er­ful storms and a rise in sea lev­els.

And U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump weak­ened the Paris agree­ment by say­ing in June that he will pull out and in­stead bol­ster the U.S. coal in­dus­try.

That means that geo-engi­neer­ing short­cuts are gain­ing ground at­ten­tion, rang­ing from ways to ex­tract car­bon from the air to more con­tro­ver­sial schemes such as in­ject­ing chem­i­cals into the strato­sphere to dim sun­light.

Wurzbacher said Clime­works is try­ing to find com­pa­nies will­ing to pay $500 a tons to be part of the Ice­landic project of “neg­a­tive emis­sions”, gen­er­ated by geo-ther­mal power.

“It’s promis­ing but it’s not a sil­ver bul­let” for cli­mate change, Jes­sica Stre­fler, a re­searcher at the Pots­dam In­sti­tute for Cli­mate Im­pact Re­search, said of the re­mov­ing car­bon diox­ide from air.

Gov­ern­ments should fo­cus most on cut­ting emis­sions, not costly engi­neer­ing so­lu­tions that might not work, she said. “Every tons of car­bon diox­ide we don’t emit in the first place means we don’t have to take it out later on,” she said.

In May, Clime­works be­gan draw­ing car­bon from the air in a com­mer­cial project in Switzer­land, pip­ing the gas to green­houses where it acts as a fer­til­izer for toma­toes and cu­cum­bers. But un­like rock, plants die and re­lease the gas back to the air.

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