The bright green climate saver

The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere must be reduced. Geochemist Olaf Schuiling proposes to scatter olivine. CO2 is actually not bad at all.

Carbon dioxide is a natural part of the energy cycle and the earth itself annually adds about 2.5 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. By burning fossil fuels, humanity has increased those annual emissions by a factor of ten and the balance has been lost. To bring the carbon dioxide level back into balance, the Dutch government wants to capture the CO2 from oil refineries and power stations and put it underground in old, pumped-out gas fields. The method is called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The gas must then remain underground for the length of days. That is not entirely without risks. CO2 is heavier than oxygen and if it were to escape it would hang above the ground like a blanket, which could pose a threat to public health.

“An unimaginative and wasteful method”, emeritus professor of geochemistry Olaf Schuiling calls this underground storage. “If it were our only option, I would also say: we have to. But we have a much better remedy: olivine.”

Instead of looking for the solution to the CO2 problem in even more technology, as CCS aims to do, Schuiling believes we can much better look at nature's method. "It made me wonder if we couldn't speed up that natural weathering process to compensate for the influx of CO2 into the atmosphere."

Schuiling's proposal is to mine olivine rock and grind it into a fine powder. This increases the surface area and, since weathering takes place at the interface between the olivine and the bottom water, this ensures more CO2 conversion. He then wants to sprinkle the olivine powder on the soil, where it can react with CO2-rich (rain) water. The olivine removes the CO2 from the water and that water in turn extracts CO2 from the air. "I'm just imitating nature, which has done it for billions of years."

Text: Hidde Tangerman/Photo: Donald MacGowan

Source: Archive Look

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