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Carbon dioxide tucked into basalt converts to rock

Transformation happens quickly, study shows

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November 18, 2016 Share This!

  • The white areas within the dark basalt rock core sample show where the CO₂ has reacted with minerals in the basalt and converted into a carbonate mineral similar to limestone.

  • Technicians make adjustments to the CO₂ piping during field study. The injection well itself is in the foreground, left.
    Courtesy of Boise Inc.

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RICHLAND, Wash. — In fairy tales, magical spells can turn people and things to stone. In a desert in southeastern Washington state, it's a chemical reaction that converts carbon dioxide into stone.

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory injected CO2 into basalt lava flows a half mile underground near Wallula, Wash. In just two years, it had converted to a carbonate mineral or solid rock according to results published today in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

Conventional wisdom said it would take thousands of years for this to occur. PNNL researchers thought differently after their lab tests demonstrated that the unique geochemical nature of basalts quickly react with CO2 to form carbonate minerals — something akin to limestone.

To prove the process operates the same deep underground, they injected nearly 1,000 tons of CO2 in a field study. The results can help inform the discussion about whether the greenhouse gas can be safely and permanently stored in ancient basalt flows. Read more about the results on EurekAlert!


Tags: Energy, Environment, Fundamental Science, Emissions, Carbon Capture and Sequestration, Climate Science, Subsurface Science

PNNL LogoInterdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,400 staff and has an annual budget of nearly $1 billion. It is managed and operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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