The Solid Carbon Project, under the supervision of Ocean Networks Canada, aims to leverage the ocean to combat climate change.
The proposed approach involves the use of direct air capture technology, powered by offshore wind turbines, to extract carbon dioxide from the air. This captured CO2 would then be injected into basalt rock formations, where it would react and gradually transform into rock over a span of 10 to 25 years.
Unlike other initiatives that inject CO2 into sedimentary rock, the Solid Carbon Project injects CO2 into basalt. Basalt (pictured above) lies deeper in the ocean than sedimentary rock. As the CO2 reacts and forms solid rock, it cannot reenter the atmosphere.
The chosen location for the project is the Cascadia Basin, situated about 300 kilometers southwest of Vancouver Island. CBC reports that the basalt in this area has the potential to store approximately 750 gigatons of CO2 – equivalent to 15 to 20 years of global emissions.
A feasibility study is currently in progress. The next step involves a demonstration project. The demonstration project is contingent upon securing $60 million in funding from government, industry, and other sources.
The demonstration, involving the injection of CO2 into basalt formations and monitoring, is expected to last for approximately two years.
The diagram below illustrates how the basalt carbon capture process works.
Source: Ocean Networks Canada
The Vancouver Island project is not the first time that scientists have recognized basalt’s decarbonizing potential. A 2021 study published in Nature Geoscience found that applying powdered basalt to soil can remove 2.5 billion tons of CO2 per year.
To minimize emissions, the Vancouver Island project would rely on wind power. The turbines would be around 150 meters tall with rotors extending 240 meters in diameter. The rotors would be situated on a floating triangle platform measuring 100 meters across.
The electricity generated by the wind turbines would power equipment responsible for extracting CO2 from the air. The captured carbon would then be transported through a pipeline to an underwater injection site.
Basalt carbon capture technology could potentially be applied globally, considering that approximately 90 percent of Earth’s basalts are located beneath the ocean. However, it’s crucial to conduct thorough environmental studies before initiating projects. Basalt carbon capture could harm migratory bird paths and sensitive underwater ecosystems.
Moreover, scientists must lower costs before basalt carbon capture becomes widespread. Offshore storage of carbon emissions costs a minimum of $60 per ton in the United States. This is 15% more expensive than storing emissions onshore.
Image Source: MBARI, https://shorturl.at/bEV19