An image of basalt rocks – 90 per cent of the earth’s basalt is found on ocean floors. (Stock image)

Vancouver Island researchers work to turn greenhouse gases into rock

University of Victoria researchers join team developing technology to remove carbon dioxide from atmosphere

University of Victoria researchers are joining an international team working on a way to safely and efficiently remove and store carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.

To stop global temperatures from rising, CO2 emissions need to be reduced but also disposed of. This $1.5-million four-year project is a partnership between the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) at UVic with other researchers in Canada, Europe, and the United States. Researchers will be working at adapting technology to build a state-of-the-art CO2 disposal system.

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The plan is to capture CO2 from the atmosphere and inject it below the ocean floor, where it will eventually turn into a rock called basalt. Basalt can be found on virtually all ocean floors, so this technology could be put into practice anywhere on the globe.

Curran Crawford, who works at UVic’s Institute for Integrated Energy Systems, is leading the research on what technology will work best for deep-sea operations.

“One key design challenge will be adapting direct air capture technology that has only been used on land to perform reliably on a floating offshore ocean platform that is powered by renewable energy,” he explains. “Another challenge is that the basalt reservoirs we want to reach are 2,700 metres deep, so our team is engaging with offshore oil and gas drilling experts who have successfully built systems in the deep-sea environment.”

READ MORE: Canada heating up faster than rest of world

PICS Executive Director, Sybil Seitzinger says the research is of vital importance and comes at a crucial time.

“[It] is a highly ambitious project with many barriers to overcome but if this team can advance the technology to a commercially viable stage by mid-century, it could be a major tool to combat climate change,” Morgan says. “Drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are not enough – we need large-scale, permanent removal of excess carbon from the atmosphere.”

The project begins Oct. 1 with the goal of being a globally viable ocean-based negative emissions system by 2050.


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