The bright green climate savior

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 adds about 2.5 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere every year. By burning fossil fuels, humanity has increased these annual emissions by a factor of ten and the balance is lost. In order to bring the carbon dioxide level back into balance, the Dutch government wants to capture the CO2 from oil refineries and power plants and put it underground in old, depleted gas fields. The method is called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The gas must then remain underground for many days to come. That is not entirely without risks. CO2 is heavier than oxygen and if it were to escape it would hang over 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: so be it. But we have a much better remedy: olivine.”

According to Schuiling, instead of looking for a solution to the CO2 problem in even more technology, as CCS envisages, it is much better to copy nature's method. “It made me think whether 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 scatter 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 just imitate nature, which has been doing it this way for billions of years.”

Text: Hidde Tangerman/Photo: Donald MacGowan

Source: Archive Look 


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