Negative CO2 emissions via subsurface mineral carbonation in fractured peridotite

Monday, 15 December 2014: 5:00 PM
Peter B Kelemen, Columbia University of New York, Palisades, NY, United States and Juerg Matter, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom
Uptake of CO2 from surface water via mineral carbonation in peridotite can be engineered to achieve negative CO2 emissions. Reaction with peridotite, e.g., CO2 + olivine (A), serpentine (B) and brucite (C), forms inert, non-toxic, solid carbonates such as magnesite. Experimental studies show that A can be 80% complete in a few hours with 30 micron powders and elevated P(CO2) [1,2,3]. B is slower, but in natural systems the rate of B+C is significant [4].

Methods for capture of dilute CO2 via mineral carbonation [4,5,6,7] are not well known, though CO2 storage via mineral carbonation has been discussed for decades [8,9]. Where crushed peridotite is available, as in mine tailings, increased air or water flow could enhance CO2 uptake at a reasonable cost [4,5].

Here we focus on enhancing subsurface CO2 uptake from surface water flowing in fractured peridotite, in systems driven by thermal convection such as geothermal power plants. Return of depleted water to the surface would draw down CO2 from the air [6,7]. CO2 uptake from water, rate limited by flow in input and output wells, could exceed 1000 tons CO2/yr [7]. If well costs minus power sales were $0.1M to $1M and each system lasts 10 years this costs < $10 to $100 per ton CO2. As for other CCS methods, upscaling requires infrastructure resembling the oil industry. Uptake of 1 Gt CO2/yr at 1000 t/well/yr requires 1M wells, comparable to the number of producing oil and gas wells in the USA.

Subsurface CO2 uptake could first be applied in coastal, sub-seafloor peridotite with onshore drilling. Sub-seafloor peridotite is extensive off Oman, New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea, with smaller amounts off Spain, Morocco, USA, etc. This would be a regional contribution, used in parallel with other methods elsewhere.

To achieve larger scale is conceivable. There is a giant mass of seafloor peridotite along slow-spreading mid-ocean ridges. Could robotic drills enhance CO2 uptake at a reasonable cost, while fabric chimneys transport CO2-depleted water to the sea surface? Does anyone know James Cameron’s phone number?

[1] O’Connor et al DOE Report 04 [2] Chizmeshya et al DOE Report 07 [3] Gadikota et al Phys Chem Chem Phys 14 [4] Wilson et al IJGHGC 14 [5] Schuiling & Krijgsman Climate Change 06 [6] Kelemen & Matter PNAS 08 [7] Kelemen et al AREPS 11 [8] Seifritz Nature 90 [9] Lackner et al Energy 95