The latest climate change solution

Two New York scientists – geologist Peter Keleman and geochemist Juerg Matter say they’ve found a rock that can be harnessed to soak up billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide. The rock, Peridotite, is found under the earth’s mantle, but it is also found in Oman, the Pacific Islands of Papua New Guinea and Caledonia, and along the coast of the Adriatic and in smaller amounts in California.

Capturing CO2 in this form is a technique many researchers are examining. Its called geosequestration, and a number of scientists are doing research into this possible solution to climate change. However most schemes suffer because they need copious amounts of energy to mine the rock and carry it to the power plant, or to purify the carbon dioxide and transport it to the rock. Columbia’s scientists, who are both at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, have three things in their favour:-

-the rock is in Oman, a major production zone for carbon dioxide since it is a vital transit point for world crude oil

-the scientists plan to work with another New York researcher Klaus Lacker, who uses synthetic “tree” that suck carbon dioxide from the air.

-Oman is near water. The process relies on boring holes deep into the rock formations below and pumping water containing pressurized carbon dioxide into the holes. Because the earth’s rock gets hotter the deeper you go, you don’t need to heat the water as much to kick start the carbonation process.

Working with Lacker, the Columbia scientists say they can store four to five billion tonnes of CO2 per year near Oman, compared to the 30 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted by human activity every year. If their predictions are accurate, this would make a huge dent in our emissions, cutting them by an impressive 17 per cent.

No word yet on when this process is expected to hit the market.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.