Another nutty geoengineering idea – Olivine dust

From the Institute of Physics

Researchers analyse ‘rock dissolving’ method of geoengineering

The benefits and side effects of dissolving particles in our ocean’s surfaces to increase the marine uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2), and therefore reduce the excess amount of it in the atmosphere, have been analysed in a new study published today.

The study, published today, 22 January, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, assesses the impact of dissolving the naturally occurring mineral olivine and calculates how effective this approach would be in reducing atmospheric CO2.

The researchers, from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, calculate that if three gigatonnes of olivine were deposited into the oceans each year, it could compensate for only around nine per cent of present day anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

This long discussed ‘quick fix’ method of geoengineering is not without environmental drawbacks; the particles would have to be ground down to very small sizes (around one micrometre) in order to be effective. The grinding process would consume energy and therefore emit varying amounts of CO2, depending on the sort of power plants used to provide the energy.

Lead author of the study Peter Köhler said: “Our literature-based estimates on the energy costs of grinding olivine to such a small size suggest that with present day technology, around 30 per cent of the CO2 taken out of the atmosphere and absorbed by the oceans would be re-emitted by the grinding process.”

The researchers used a computer model to assess the impact of six different olivine dissolution scenarios. Olivine is an abundant magnesium-silicate found beneath the Earth’s surface that weathers quickly when exposed to water and air – in its natural environment it is dissolved by carbonic acid which is formed from CO2 out of the atmosphere and rain water.

If olivine is distributed onto the ocean’s surface, it begins to dissolve and subsequently increases the alkalinity of the water. This raises the uptake capacity of the ocean for CO2, which is taken up via gas exchange from the atmosphere.

According to the study, 92 per cent of the CO2 taken up by the oceans would be caused by changes in the chemical make-up of the water, whilst the remaining uptake would be down to changes in marine life through a process known as ocean fertilisation.

Ocean fertilisation involves providing phytoplankton with essential nutrients to encourage its growth. The increased numbers of phytoplankton use CO2 to grow, and then when it dies it sinks to the ocean floor taking the CO2 with it.

“In our study we only examined the effects of silicate in olivine. Silicate is a limiting nutrient for diatoms – a specific class of phytoplankton. We simulated with our model that the added input of silicate would shift the species composition within phytoplankton towards diatoms.

“It is likely that iron and other trace metals will also impact marine life if olivine is used on a large scale. Therefore, this approach can also be considered as an ocean fertilisation experiment and these impacts should be taken into consideration when assessing the pros and cons of olivine dissolution,” continued Köhler.

The researchers also investigated whether the deposition of olivine could counteract the problem of ocean acidification, which continues to have a profound effect on marine life. They calculate that about 40 gigatonnes of olivine would need to be dissolved annually to fully counteract today’s anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

“If this method of geoengineering was deployed, we would need an industry the size of the present day coal industry to obtain the necessary amounts of olivine. To distribute this, we estimate that 100 dedicated large ships with a commitment to distribute one gigatonne of olivine per year would be needed.

“Taking all our conclusions together – mainly the energy costs of the processing line and the projected potential impact on marine biology – we assess this approach as rather inefficient. It certainly is not a simple solution against the global warming problem.” said Köhler.


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bury a climate-change alarmist and plant a tree… once that’s done, we can talk.


Whatever happened to the good old days when scientific theories were (dis)proven by experiment!

j fisk

And if this tips us into an ice age what then?

In another 20 years they are going to be doing whatever they can to get more CO2 into the atmosphere, I think. It’s going to get a little chilly.

I can’t wait ’til the “anti-strip-mining” people hear about this!!!!


Somebody got paid to produce that garbage.???


Dumping olivine minerals into water causes exothermal chemical reactions! This results in an increase of the water temperature, even if slight. Increased water temperature causes a release of CO2. Is this smart? To me it seems contraproductive …
As olivine materials are minerals, this will act as fertalizers on the biosphere. Is this smart, as in most cases simular attempt to dump (foreigin) stuff into the water has disturbed the marine life in affected area (lime excepted)?


The entire operation to be run by Murphy, and governed by the LAW of Unintended Consequences…

A. Scott

40 gigatonnes would be 40 billion metric tonnes (=2,200lbs each). The US consumed appx 1.085 billion short tons (=2,000lbs) in 2011 – or appx 0.984 billion metric tonnes.
This is simply ridiculous based on scope and scale let alone the massive unknowns this kind of ridiculous geo-engineering might have on our hugely important oceans.
Even if I had a choice of 20 feet of sea level increase vs this unknown geo-engineering I would not hesitate to choose the sea level rise. At least it is a known, certain effect.

Sir: My comment was to read “I can’t wait ’til. It wasn’t a good comment.
so forget it Thank you. sorry. Alfred
Reply: Seemed like a nice comment to me… so I fixed it for you. -ModE]


Oh FFS! If anyone wanted proof that Idiots are being freely given degrees AND grant money – this is it!

James Bull

Maybe they could mine it with manpower using all those who have lost their jobs because of the green revolution, make windmills with grinders instead of alternators and sail boats made from renewable trees to take it to sea.
Sounds like a good idea to me,
James Bull


just as an aside – you know what I find funny? – it’s that these eco-greeny loons will support this – whilst screaming blue murder at the thought of GM food – ‘cos of course, ocean fertilisation doesn’t affect the eco-system at all, does it?


Of course the power for the grinding must only come from wind turbines. That should slow them down a bit.

Man Bearpig

So is it worth buying shares in Olivine mining ?


What happened to – cold water disolves CO2 – hot water releases CO2


Olivine dust ground and dispersed by giant fossil fuelled machines! A superlative suggestion, sir, with just two minor flaws. One, we don’t have any AGW. And two, we don’t have any AGW. Now I realise that technically speaking that’s only one flaw, but I thought that it was such a big one that it was worth mentioning twice…. (Apologies to Kryten)
The main problem with the AGW hypothesis is of course that it is pseudo scientific nonsense. In answer to jgmccabe who commented above, there are no empirical experiments that prove AGW. Not one. But there are several easy experiments you can conduct in the lab that can totally disprove the worst scientific blunder in the history of human scientific endeavour
1. DWIR cannot slow the cooling rate of liquid water that is free to evaporatively cool. That rules out 71% of the earth’s surface from being affected by “back radiation” from CO2. The empirical experiment to check this is easy.
2. Ignore gravity like the AGW believers do and treat the atmosphere as a single mathematical layer or “body” as AGW believers do. The answer is still that CO2 cools our atmosphere. Why? Because CO2s ability to warm the atmosphere by intercepting outgoing IR is a inverse logarithmic function of its concentration in the atmosphere. However CO2s ability to radiate to space the energy the atmosphere has acquired from conduction and the release of latent heat is a linear function of its concentration in the atmosphere. Even failing to consider gravity, CO2 will become a coolant after around 50ppm. This too can be shown by empirical experiment.
3. Model gravity and the pressure gradient correctly and you will find that radiative gases are vital for continued convective circulation in the troposphere. Where do 99.9% of the radiative gases in our atmosphere exist? Below the tropopause. Where does the lapse rate reverse? Above the tropopause. Where does all strong vertical convective circulation occur? Below the tropopause. Without energy loss to space above the altitude of energy input convective circulation will stall and our atmosphere will heat. When you model the atmosphere with depth and a pressure gradient, the net effect of radiative gases is cooling at all concentrations above 0ppm. The critical importance of emitting IR to space above the altitude of energy input into the atmosphere can also be demonstrated by empirical experiment.
Where are the empirical experiments that prove AGW? Nowhere, that’s where.
AGW is physically impossible. Adding radiative gases to the atmosphere will not reduce the radiative cooling ability of the atmosphere.
If you find those currently defending AGW unconvincing, just think how ridiculous the last AGW believers are going to get in the very near future. These are the last days of the hoax. Soon only the most fervent and orally foaming believers will be left. Those that have any chance of saving career or reputation are already trying to slink and weasel away, foolishly hoping for an escape to “Black Carbon”, “Biocrisis” or “Sustainability”. Those that realise they can’t escape the permanent record of the Internet are going nuts. Fools like Gleick, Lewandowsky and Mann are now so far around the bend they can no longer see daylight.
When the dust begins to settle on this most sorry episode in science and politics, those involved will come to understand what the phrase “Sceptics will never forgive and the Internet will never forget” actually means. The pseudo scientists? The compliant MSM? The “left” of politics? The UN kleptocrats? The environmental activists? All the “fellow travellers” and “useful idiots” whom the Internet has tied to the mast of SS AGW? These fools are going to be wincing and biting their fist so hard that that they will find that they are missing fingers and that they’ve swallowed their eyes.

Considering the prevalence of olivine and serpentine (morphed olivine) in California (serpentine is the state mineral), I would guess such a “charge” happens every time there is a rainy season on the west coast of the US.


Dear ModE,
I Note that wordpress has “helpfully” deleted my paragraph spacing. If You do chose to post my previous comment I would greatly appreciate if you could restore paragraph spacing. You may add a “/rant” qualifier at you discretion 😉
[Reply: Added spaces. Hope they are as you like them. -ModE ]


The benefits and side effects of dissolving particles in our ocean’s surfaces to increase the marine uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2), and therefore reduce the excess amount of it in the atmosphere, have been analysed in a new study published today.
Whoa! First they have to tell me what is the correct amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Then we can talk about whether to increase or decrease the amount. They are assuming right out the gate that a reduction would be a good thing.


Peak Olivine.

Peter Miller

And just where would you mine all this olivine? There are just a few small olivine mines in the world today.
Olivine is often associated with nickel, which can be very toxic.
“It certainly is not a simple solution against the global warming problem.” – This sentence obviously needs correcting:
“It certainly is not a simple solution against the non-problem of global warming.” There, that’s better.
Verdict: Just another instance of tax dollars being well spent on behalf of the Global Warming Industry.

Mike Bromley the Canucklehead back in Kurdistan but actually in Switzerland

3 gigatons??? What on earth are they going to use to mine, grind, transport and distribute this load? Shovels and wheelbarrows? Asinine.

Magnesium silicate. Ground up into 1 micrometer powder. Isn’t that known sometimes as white asbestos?

Almah Geddon

What is ironic is that this comes from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. Wegener came up with the idea for continental drift, which finally became plate tectonics. He was derided for his ideas, the ‘science was settled’ orthodicy was that the continents did not move. So much so that in the US it was not taught in Geology schools until the 1960s when the physical evidence for drift became overwhelming, and the keepers of the orthodoxy either were dead or finally admitted defeat.
Parallels for the ‘science is settled’ CAGW?

Dr Evil

Now now now…’re all wrong……
We should strategically plant atom bombs in the hundred megaton range around the equator (every 50 miles or so should suffice) and detonate each of them when the sun-facing side of the planet is at midday. Should put us in a higher orbit around the sun….
Eh? Eh?


[Reply: Added spaces. Hope they are as you like them. -ModE ]
PayPal can answer that. Of course my “Big Oil cheque” should even things out. Any day now. Any day….

In our study we only examined the effects of silicate in olivine. Silicate is a limiting nutrient for diatoms

Since the vast majority of all rocks are silicates (yes, there’s carbonates and others, but a whole lot of slicates) they are really saying that rock weathering fixes it. And it does.
So how about we just let the gigatons of slicates that nature washes into the oceans each year deal with it?
As Olivine is first cousin to Serpentine and Asbestos, I’d not want to find out what fine grinding it to dust does to lungs, or gills, or digestive systems…
There are easier ways to get silicates into the oceans.
Just wait for a volcano…


Clearly there will be a problem getting sufficient purity and tonnes of the mineral which has end members fayalite (iron) and fosterite (magnesium). Often olivine is high in chrome, nickel and other metals which will be pollutants at this scale.
It is a stupid idea – a bit like suggesting NASA flys a hot air balloon to Mars to save travel time.

@Doctor Evil:
Um, as I remember my orbital mechanics, you need to increase the velocity to get a higher orbit, so detonation when pointed 90 degrees to sun. Pointed AT sun just causes change of circularity and you get more elliptical. Probably not a good thing 😉
Counter intuitive, I know, but this IS rocket science 😉
Suggest using southern Sahara as detonation point as it is just enough off equatorial as to line up right (given axial tilt of about 22 degrees) and nobody much would notice the ever larger crater being formed. Oh, and need Tzar Bomb from old USSR. 50 Mega Tons or so lets you blow hole in atmosphere. Otherwise you just make mess… 100 Mega Tons better. (Maybe can use many at once 😉 Oh, and need to watch that you are not off axis with orbit or you will induce more “bobbing” in the ecliptic… Not so good (but not so bad… other than might mess up eclipse cycles… ) And be very careful to address moon, please. As it co-orbits with us (like 2nd planet really – never goes retrograde.. we really both orbit sun with ‘side swapping’ wobble…) would make a really really big mess if you get it wrong and whack into moon. Folks would be really really pissed… See orbit graph top of here:
Tolerances a bit tighter than you might think…
Oh, one last thing, given energy needed, issue lead suits to everyone and put biosphere in bottle for a few centuries… going to be a bumpy ride 😉

@Doctor Evil:
You would also have only two moments a year when the sun is directly over the equator. Would you have to compensate for the 8 minutes or so that the sun gravity field and light is away from the Earth, so start 8 minutes sooner / later ?

David Jones

I’m sure I read somewhere that All Fools Day in Germany is not 1st April. I can’t exactly remember when it is but I have a vague memory it is 22nd January!

So I stand to be corrected here – I freely admit to being an amateur – but feeding plankton which subsequently dies and falls to the ocean floor will eventually create what exactly ?
OMG, could it be EVIL OIL??


“The researchers also investigated whether the deposition of olivine could counteract the problem of ocean acidification, which continues to have a profound effect on marine life. ”
Are they writing from the future? As far as I know, there has been NO documented effect of lower pH as it has barely changed.

wayne Job

I do hope this research was done as a hobby in their spare time. No one should pay out money for collective stupidity.

Peter Miller

This article is just another instance demonstrating the Global Warming Industry is all about: i) too much money, and ii) the involvement of too many second and third rate scientists,
It is self-evident CAGW is a baseless concept, or there would be numerous occurrences of it in the geological record.
Academics running riot is one of the best way to describe CAGW, but I recently found a concept even more asinine. I know it’s a bit off topic, but here is the concept of ‘Plant rights’:

“crosspatch says: January 22, 2013 at 2:07 am
Considering the prevalence of olivine and serpentine (morphed olivine) in California (serpentine is the state mineral), I would guess such a “charge” happens every time there is a rainy season on the west coast of the US.”

Aye! And the Serpentine barrens in Maryland and SE Pennsylvania. Serpentine is found in or near many places where tectonics have ever been active.
Not to forget that a serpentine emplacements often contain significant quantities of asbestos, primarily Chrysotile Mg3(Si2O5)(OH) (idealized formula). Now most of the asbestos in it’s natural state has minimal dangers to humans. The problem asbestos are the microscopic short fibers that are released; especially when grinding up serpentine into tiny particle sizes for separation.
Technically, olivine and serpentine are both forms of magnesium silcate minerals. A constituent mineral of the olivine’s mineral group, forsterite, has a basic formula, Mg2(SiO)4. Basic or idealized formula’s refer to a mineralogically pure concept which is virtually unknown in naturally ocurring minerals. In olivine, magnesium is replaced by other metals that are present, such as calcium, iron, manganese,and nickle.
From what is stated, calculations are based on conceptually pure olivine magnesium silicate.
As SasjaL states above, the reaction is exothermic.
Other references that test the concept of using olivine to sequester carbon mention that the laboratory test is conducted using temperatures in the range of 150C to 250C under pressures of 85-125 bar, on 75-100 micron particle sizes. The Azimuth Project
Reactions progressed fairly well within short time frames, day to days. One does wonder just how long this reaction would take at oceanic temperatures. Gigatonnes of <100 micron sized particles sinking to the bottom of the ocean.
75 – 100 micron szed particles of olivine magnesium silicates, (forsterite), are similar both chemically and structurally to the magnesium silicate asbestos chrysotile and i do wonder what the effect would be to the lungs of mammals and gills of sea critters…
Now if they could turn this exothermic process into a really really cheap method of heating for the world's poor… Sorry, couldn't help myself; /sarc


Plant Hemp! Oh wait…

Gem olivine is called peridot. Visitors to volcanic islands, like Hawaii, might have wondered about the shiny green pieces of crystal that look like broken glass.
Well, that’s peridot and a relative pure form of olivine; but not necessarily a pure magnesium silicate.
Is the water around Hawaii significantly different chemically because of all that olivine and all that rainfall?

John West

“counteract the problem of ocean acidification, which continues to have a profound effect on marine life”
The partial pressure of CO2 in seawater is a function of many variables including temperature and salinity of which the CO2 partial pressure of the overlying air is a minor one.

Radical Rodent

To tell the truth, I rather like the article. It is good to see someone taking the idea and investigating it quite thoroughly before debunking it as totally mad (though their language in doing so was rather more circumspect).
What makes it bad is that the eco-loonies will still insist that it is a solution (pardon the pun).


Boom time for Mortlake – the (self-appointed) Olivine Capital of Australia.


No doubt this valuable research was funded by Big Olivine.

DId they calculate the huge fleet of ships, the machinery, the time and the fuel it would take to distribute this stupidity? Reminds me of biofuels where at best you spend as much energy as you get out, probably more when the infrastructure and equipment are suitably considered.

Steve C

May I be the first to propose the UK as a suitable place to do a lot of the preparation of the olivine? Our government, with great foresight, are busily closing down many old-fashioned, reliable coal-fired power stations, so as to free up many fine brownfield sites on which to build efficient new olivine pulverisation factories. They are covering the landscape and surrounding seascape with wind turbines, which will, they assure us, deliver reliable electricity well into the future to power the rock crushers. And there are a couple of million or so unemployed, presently forced to live on benefits but undoubtedly ready and willing to perform this vital task – particularly when threatened with the loss of those benefits. From grinding poverty to grinding rocks in one spectacular leap. Grind British. You know it makes sense.
Who knows, in the eyes of the green contingent, we might even be able to atone for our sin of introducing the Industrial Revolution.

Regarding acidification:
1) Sea water is a complex buffer and the weak acidity of carbonic acid will have little or no effect.
2) Carbonic acid is part of an extended equilibrium leading to calcium carbonate. The protons it gives off, supposedly acidifying the waters, cannot affect its own equilibrium. Only an outside source of protons can alter the equilibrium and lead to calcium carbonate dissolution.
3) Ocean pH has remained within its normal range.
4) Photosynthesis is an alkalizing process, raising the pH as much as 3 full units during a sunny day. The high pH becomes a real threat during these times.
5) CO2 is plant food and all organisms benefit from having more food in the food chain.
6) Marine organisms are more resilient than the alarmists would have us think. Very few organisms suffer with pH change, and usually it simply means that a different species is more abundant; extinctions are not going to happen as there will always be parts of the ocean that have the former pH.
7) It is also clear that CO2 has been much higher than now during the vast majority of the last 600 million years and life on Earth flourished. The Cliffs of Dover were NOT built during times of low CO2.
Making a good analysis of these schemes is a cute exercise but can’t we use our time and money on something more pressing and real, rather than on a false crisis created by those pushing a political agenda?

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

Almah Geddon says:
January 22, 2013 at 2:29 am

… the ‘science was settled’ orthodicy was that the continents did not move.

I realize of course this was a t ypo, but I think you’ve inadvertently coined an interesting new word: othodoxy [conventionally accepted doctrine which cannot be questioned] + dicey [slang: chancy, risky (from gambling dice)] = orthodicey.
Seems like a really good word to describe CAGW theories.
Or maybe you meant orthodoxy + idiocy = orthodiocy.

R Barker

Yes, they did conclude it was not a good idea. Probably knew that right from the start.

This must be the most stupid thing I have ever heard.
Come to think of it all the other stupid things I have heard over the least 20 years or so, have been from clowns with BSc’s teling us that 100 extra molecules of a naturally occurring gas in 1000,000 molecules of other naturally occurring gases is going to cause the planet to self-destruct!

Julian Flood

E.M.Smith says: January 22, 2013 at 3:02 am
There are easier ways to get silicates into the oceans.
Just wait for a volcano…
A few years ago there was a big volcano in the north Pacific: while there was a subsequent big salmon bloom there was no CO2 dip that I could see. If the food chain boost was from silica-shelled diatoms then this is the result one should expect.
There has been an increase in dust from agriculture/forest clearance etc since the 18th century. If this is reflected in dissolved oceanic silica then:
1. Diatom numbers will have increased at the expense of calcareous phytos.
2. Diatoms will have fixed less carbon relative to calcareous phytos but, as diatoms use a fixing process less discriminatory against heavy carbon, the atmosphere will be left with a light C signal.
3. Diatoms do not make chalk skeletons and thus do not export as much carbon to the deep oceans when they die. So a diatom bloom will displace the more effective CO2 exporters and this will leave relatively more CO2 in the atmosphere.
So, more CO2, light isotope signal. Does this begin to sound familiar?
There’s a paper about dust deposits in Mid-Western lakes which shows how much aeolian dust agriculture has produced, but I’ve seen nothing about run-off. OK, OK, correlation/causation etc, but I find it intriguing that the light C isotope signal begins before we started burning lots of fossil fuel but about the time we really start increasing agricultural disruption of soils and ground cover. Fertilise the ocean with silica rich dust and see if the diatoms really do react by blooming: if they do then the current ‘it’s because of fossil fuel, there’s nothing else it can be’ nonsense is just that, nonsense.