Antarctic Pumpdown---a New Geoengineering Concept for Capturing and Storing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Monday, 15 December 2014
James E Beget, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, United States
Growing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are increasing global temperatures. This is projected to impact human society in negative ways. Multiple geoengineering approaches have been suggested that might counteract problems created by greenhouse warming, but geoengineering itself can be problematic as some proposed methods would pose environmental risks to the oceans, atmosphere, and biosphere. I propose a new approach that would remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in the cryosphere. Carbon dioxide would be captured by seeding the atmosphere over a designated small region of central Antarctica with monoethanolamine (MEA), a well known compound commonly used for CO2 capture in submarines and industrial processes. Monoethanolamine captures and retains carbon dioxide until it encounters water. Because MEA crystals are stable when dry, they would fall from the atmosphere just in the local area where the seeding is done, and they would be naturally buried by snowfalls and preserved in the upper parts of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, where thawing does not occur. The carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by this process could reside safely in this geologic reservoir for thousands of years, based on known flow characteristic of the ice sheet. Also, carbon dioxide stored in this way could be recovered in the future by drilling into the ice sheet to the frozen storage zone. The CO2 Antarctic Pumpdown (CAP) concept could potentially be used to stabilize or reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and then to store the carbon dioxide safely and inexpensively in a stable geologic reservoir