Rock-solid climate solutions: Negative emissions technology

Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions funds $1.5 million research project

University of Victoria

IMAGE: Over 90 per cent of the Earth's basalt rock is located on the deep ocean floor, such as this pillow lava bed seen at Endeavour (depth, 2,195 metres). Credit: Ocean Networks Canada/CSSF-ROPOS

IMAGE: Over 90 per cent of the Earth’s basalt rock is located on the deep ocean floor, such as this pillow lava bed seen at Endeavour (depth, 2,195 metres). Credit: Ocean Networks Canada/CSSF-ROPOS

A team of international researchers plan to turn the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into rock by permanently injecting it beneath the Earth’s ocean floor through an ambitious, new research partnership announced today by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) at the University of Victoria.

The $1.5 million, four-year PICS Theme Partnership entitled “Solid Carbon: A Climate Mitigation Partnership Advancing Stable Negative Emissions” brings together researchers from Canada, the United States and Europe. The team aims to combine state-of-the-art technologies in a way that has never been conceived until now, to deliver safe and reliable carbon dioxide (CO2) removal.

The project team includes scientists, engineers and social scientists from the University of Victoria; Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a UVic initiative; University of British Columbia; University of Calgary; University of California; Columbia University; the University of Washington; and GEOMAR Helmholz Centre for Ocean Research in Germany. Other project partners include K&M Technology Group, and Carbon Engineering in Squamish, British Columbia.

With climate change scenarios showing that negative emissions technologies are needed to limit warming to two degrees Celsius, PICS Executive Director Sybil Seitzinger says the research is timely and urgent.

“Solid Carbon 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,” she says. “Drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are not enough–we need large-scale, permanent removal of excess carbon from the atmosphere.”

ONC President and Chief Executive Officer Kate Moran, Solid Carbon’s principal investigator, explains how proven technologies behind renewable energy production, carbon capture, offshore drilling and carbon mineralization will come together in this feasibility study.

“The vision is to extract CO2 from the atmosphere using a direct air capture technology (developed by Carbon Engineering). Then, using deep ocean technology powered by ocean-based wind and solar energy, inject the CO2 into the subseafloor basalt, where it will mineralize and remain permanently as rock,” she says.

Globally, more than 90 per cent of basalt resides in the ocean where it is widely distributed, making the technology ideal for world-wide use. One of the project’s initial focus areas is modelling and laboratory experiments to demonstrate sequestration of CO2 into ocean basalts that lie beneath ONC’s Cascadia Basin site off the west coast of British Columbia.

Curran Crawford, a professor with UVic’s Institute for Integrated Energy Systems, will lead the investigation into what ocean technology design works best for capturing and then injecting the CO2 into ocean basalt. Prototypes will then be built for further evaluation.

“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.”

A third component of the project will examine the social, regulatory, and investor acceptance for this project, including gaps in current law. Romany Webb, associate research scholar at Columbia Law School, says existing ocean regulations had not anticipated CO2 sequestration, hence the need for evaluation and future adjustments.

“We need to better understand the laws affecting offshore carbon capture and storage to ensure future projects are conducted in a manner that not only helps to mitigate climate change, but is also safe and environmentally responsible.”

Seitzinger says Solid Carbon has the potential to establish BC as the international technology hub for this climate mitigation solution, and build expertise within Canada as top graduate students are drawn into the project.

The four-year project begins Oct. 1, 2019, with the ultimate goal of designing and delivering a globally applicable ocean-based negative emissions technology by 2050.

Read the FAQ here.

Additional Quotes

Geoff Holmes, director of business development at Carbon Engineering: “Direct air capture, and the broader concept of carbon dioxide removal, is gaining business and policy attention as we all tackle the climate challenge. This work will look at yet another way to deploy these technologies and ideally open up more opportunities to tackle emissions while maintaining affordable energy and competitiveness.”

Meghan Paulson, principal drilling engineer at K&M Technology Group. “I am keen to contribute to this project because the technologies and approaches developed over decades within the oil and gas sector are important to making this solution succeed.”

Murray Rankin, environmental lawyer. “I am delighted to add a Canadian legal perspective to this rock-solid climate change solution. To advance this solution as fast as possible, it is crucial that we forge ahead with regulatory acceptance in parallel with the advancement of the technology. As we’re hearing loudly from kids this week, timely action is needed now.”

The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions develops impactful, evidence-based climate change solutions through collaborative partnerships which connect solution seekers with experts from BC’s four leading research universities. The PICS Theme Partnership Program supports research on particularly complex–and critically important–climate mitigation and adaptation challenges, and in the process develops legacy partnerships for BC and beyond. PICS is hosted and led by the University of Victoria in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the University of Northern British Columbia.

Ocean Networks Canada, an initiative of the University of Victoria, monitors the west and east coasts of Canada and the Arctic to continuously deliver data in real-time for scientific research that helps communities, governments and industry make informed decisions about our future. Using cabled observatories, remote control systems and interactive sensors, and big data management, ONC enables evidence-based decision-making on ocean management, marine safety and environmental protection. ONC also works in collaboration with educators, students, communities and Indigenous peoples on ocean monitoring initiatives along BC’s coast and in the Arctic.

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A media kit containing high-resolution photos, videos and an explainer of the project is available on Dropbox.

From EurekAlert!

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75 thoughts on “Rock-solid climate solutions: Negative emissions technology

  1. …and “act” like they have no idea how big the atmosphere is…and what it would take to turn that volume over

    but know that they can fool the people handing out the money

  2. I really wish these people would stop!

    By permanently sequestering CO2, they are increasing the likelihood that all life on earth could be extinguished in the next glaciation. Cold water absorbs large quantities of CO2 and drops the concentration to very low levels during the peak glacial extent. We are too danged close to the bottom now!

    They need to keep their grubby hands off this life-giving molecule and find some other religious belief to fixate upon!

  3. Massive energy inputs will be needed to do what quadrillions of living plankton and algae already do, daily for free.

    When will people learn that Nature is much more efficient at establishing equilibrium than people are? And more cost effective.

    • Typically a scheme. For semi-permanent storage you do not only need a reservoir to store it in, you also need a seal or very effective cap rock, then preferably a geometric shape that prevents leakage at the edges. This plan is nothing more than the recycling of CO2 through the ocean floor, which al by itself already leaks endless amounts of CO2. I hope only volunteers pay for this nonsense..

  4. So, if this crazy concept goes ahead it means we can continue to burn all the fossil fuels we want and have zero complaints from the Green climate alarmists.
    If that is the objective put me down as a supporter.
    Sadly, I think it is complete nonsense and a way to gain state support to mess about in boats and not do much about anything.
    I could be wrong…..

    • Nope. The plan won’t be production ready until 2050. 20 years after the world ends unless we stop using fossil fuels. So either they’re counting on the world not ending (in which case we didn’t need it) or we somehow stopped using fossil fuels before that… meaning we didn’t actually need it.

  5. Damn the costs, full speed ahead.

    BTW, why would anyone want to remove an essential nutrient, CO2, from the base of Earth’s food production chain (plants that utilize photosynthesis) . . . are they antithetical to life on Earth?

    • Maybe they’re hostile aliens trying to get us to wipe ourselves out so they can then claim Earth without a fight.

    • “why would anyone …”
      Gordon, they know that with India, China, Africa and others greatly expanding coal fired electricity plants, that the developed world cant stop the upward climb of CO2. We are going to complete this big experiment and find (as 40yrs of data indicate) global warming is at best marginal, that there is no crisis that will arise, and indeed that CO2 increase will be a net benefit.

      THIS is the reason why there is so much panic by climateers and neoleft politicos. They want to have big policy initiatives and geoengineering in operation to claim credit for averting an existential crisis that never was going to happen. They know they have cost global welfare trillions of dollars and postponed wellbeing of millions of poverty stricken people that have lost and are losing their lives.

      They are too late of course. Horizontal drilling and fracking in deep water sites using (unreliable) renewable energy on a scale to make a difference isn’t going to fly, even if they employed every drill available to the oil industry. If they were serious, they would at least use nuclear energy – but hey, that wouldnt be politically correct.

  6. “Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions funds $1.5 million research project.” Are they independently wealthy, or is it your and my money?

  7. “. . . we need large-scale, permanent removal of excess carbon from the atmosphere.”

    It’s amazing how highly educated people will work to put CO2, the starting point for carbon-based life, back in the Genie Lamp (it must pay good). Has anyone told them: warmer + more CO2 = increased life? To some, increased life is good – to others, it’s bad.

  8. How can any rational person think removing essential plant food from the environment is a ‘good idea’?
    Anybody? Buehler? Buehler?

  9. Injection wells frequently suffer plugging – even when we are deliberately trying to avoid mineralizing the injected fluid.

    I am pretty sure their plan will be a technical success. However, drilling 100 offshore wells every three months to keep up the injection rate is going to be prohibitively expensive.

  10. The 5% of Co2, a trace gas to start with, that is human caused is only1/20th of the atmospheric Co2. If you reduced all human emissions of CO2 to zero, there would still be the same old 95% remaining that is totally natural. So, how much is it worth to reduce Co2 by that 5%? Remember, no human emissions to go back to ‘natural. At all.
    Obviously, not feasible to remove all human Co2…maybe HALF? So, this money is spent to supposedly control 2.5% of the earth’s co2? Could we really get down to 1/2? Of course not. Does it matter? Of course not – C02 follows earth’s temperature, it does not lead it. Thus, Co2 cannot CAUSE anything, it is a RESULT of how earth’s climate passes through its cycles. It all repeats over short to extremely long cycles.

    • I keep reminding alarmists that there is a measured concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, and that is ~413ppm/v. The reply is it’s too much and the planet and all life on it is choking to death. Seriously?!

      • Joe and Jane Q. Public don’t understand “parts per million”, it sounds like a big number to them. I find that expressing it as a percentage aids comprehension. Instead of saying:
        Pre-industrial levels of CO2 were 280 ppm compared to 410 ppm today, a difference of 130 ppm,
        I say:
        In the last two centuries, the nature of the atmosphere has changed by thirteen thousandths of one percent.
        I find that most people experience an epiphany when they hear it expressed this way.

        • Do the crops grow better with higher CO2 concentrations? Some greenhouses intentionally burn natural gas to increase CO2 much higher than 410 ppm. Perhaps increasing the CO2 will help plants grow and feed the growing population?

          I am planning to put a CO2 source under my tomato plants with a canopy next year to improve my sandwiches. Cheers.

  11. With enough money and time scientists could put wings on pigs and train them to fly. This will allow the pigs to increase the protein to fat ratio, and improve the bacon — while they fly to the slaughter facility.
    This would actually do something useful.

    • John, The atmospheric concentration of baconers flying about has increased exponentially since the climate warming scam started back in late 1980s.
      But Mann oh Mann persuading them to fly into the abattoirs is proving difficult.

  12. Wow! Great idea. Just like introducing cane toads into the Australian out back as a way control the cane beetle! I mean like what’s the worst that could happen?

  13. The estimated mass of the atmosphere is about 5.3(10^18) kg, of which about 3.2(10^15) kg = 3.2 trillion metric tonnes is CO2.

    Since CO2 is only about 1 molecule per 2,500 molecules of dry air (1,952 nitrogen, 524 oxygen, 23 argon), how much energy will it take to extract that one molecule from the other 2,499 molecules they don’t want to take out of the air?

    If they want to bury the CO2 2,700 meters under the sea, the required pressure is over 3,800 psi (simply from the weight of water above). How much fuel must be burned to compress the CO2 to over 3,800 psi?

    It’s easier to “sequester” CO2 on land, where the required pressure is about 1,200 psi (slightly above the critical pressure of CO2), and even that (if applied to flue gas from a power plant) consumes about 20 to 30% of the power generated. But at least the flue gas is more concentrated in CO2 (about 8 to 10% by volume), which makes it easier to recover than 0.04% in air, and they don’t have to do this on a floating platform which can take a beating in a storm.

    From a feasibility standpoint, this is a nonstarter.

  14. Each year the polar oceans suck up nearly all the CO2 that is emitted from natural and anthropogenic sources and most of it ends up as rock on the bottom of the ocean, and it doesn’t cost us a dime.

  15. Are these the same people that oppose deep-well injection for disposal of oilfield fluids?

    And in an earthquake zone too?

  16. “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.”

    While they are drilling those 2700 meter deep holes with renewable energy off the coast of British Columbia to inject their very expensive CO2 direct capture from air, I hope they plan to recover the crude oil they find. Then I might support something like this, if it is paid for by oil extraction. At least then that oil they find could be be labeled carbon neutral oil. But I bet not.

  17. I have an alternative Proposal:

    Grow trees.
    Harvest them
    Embed them in concrete.
    Stack em, Pack em, Rack em, on the surface, or
    Build structures with them, or
    sink em to make reefs, where they would be advantageous to have, or
    foundations for underwater dwellings, or

    Research done, all known technology, no fancy tech, no new infrastructure. CO2 completely recoverable, in unit quantities, whenever/wherever in the future needed.

    Cheap to stop doing, too.

  18. This must be just a small piece of a larger effort, otherwise it does not make any sense.
    $1.5 million over four years sounds OK for a start. But then look at that list of organizations, all taking a piece of the pie. All of a sudden, $1.5 million does not go very far.

    This is described as a “feasibility study”, so far, so good. They do not have to actually do anything, much less build anything. Just pushing paper is fine.

    And when will this be ready? They say by 2050.
    Perfect! Make up a huge, big, complicated scheme with lots of moving parts and a dog’s mess of technologies. It’s Complicated. Now spend the next 30 years fretting about how to make it all work. That will carry each and every one of them clear into retirement. The Perfect Plan.
    Great work, if you can get it. (And people say Global Warming is useless!)

    • Exactly. It full of grandiose words and ambitions: “The team aims to combine state-of-the-art technologies in a way that has never been conceived until now, to deliver blah blah blah…”

      …Yet they really haven’t the faintest idea how to do what is essentially an impossibly expensive and futile project. But hey, the modelers soak up money projecting their problems many decades into the future, so why not postulate equally unlikely solutions in the same way.

  19. The Stupid in this idea is very apparent on its face, but what happens when we drill down? Yep, more Stupid. Then more. Then more. Indeed, it’s Stupid all the way down.

  20. “Globally, more than 90 per cent of basalt resides in the ocean where it is widely distributed, making the technology ideal for world-wide use.”

    Hmmm.
    I’ve heard this claim before and have always wondered where they get such silly ideas.
    It does seem like a safe claim when one considers that approximately 75% of Earth is ocean.

    Trouble is, flood basalts do not flood under water. Something about magma interacting violently with water.
    Flood basalts do cover immense areas above the water.

    Given the difficulty measuring total area or volume of basalts anywhere on Earth, this seems to be a similar claim to Earth is doomed if the temperature rises above 2°C. Just another fable to cover their posteriors.

  21. Basalt is an igneous rock, as a such does not have much porosity or permeability to inject or store the CO2. Best way to create some is to fracture the potential basalt reservoirs. I hope they don’t have any legal problems.

  22. Picture the scene. it is the monthly prospecting meeting at Loadsaoil Downthere Corp.
    “Well Larry what are we going to do to get round the latest Canadian embargo on offshore prospect drilling”?
    “Heck Chuck, we got that covered already. The rock solid project is full steam ahead. We can drill as many test wells as we like and the best bit is, the government is helping to pay for it”
    “You mean they fell for that guff?”
    “Sure did, they even offered to ask Greta to come and sanctify the rigs on her way past in her carbon fibre yacht”

    Stay tuned for more from Larry and Chuck as the climate crisis drills ever deeper…

    • And those oil drilling rigs will be run on renewables…maybe wave generators on the high seas. Can it get any more bizarre than all this? What a waste of intellect and resources.

  23. This is nuts. Nature has been doing this over hundreds of millions of years turing life giving CO2 into carbonate rock, There may come a time when we will have to expend energy turning carbonate rock back into CO2 so that plants can survive on this planet. There is no real evidence that CO2 has any effect on climate and there is plenty of scientific rationale that the climate sensitivity of CO2 is zero. Removing all of the CO2 form our atmosphere will starve off all life as we know it but doing so will have no effect on climate. If one really wants to cool the Earth’s surface by changing the atmosphere without killing off all life, the best way would be to remove N2 and in doing so reducing the surface pressure. One would have to remove an awful large amount of N2 but doing so would not kill off life on this planet.

  24. What a waste of effort. If you want to make rocks to use on the surfac- good for it. Don’t bury them in the ocean. The wild ideas these climate alarmist come up with.

  25. I have a great idea.
    Let’s dig up limestone, burn it to CaO then use the CaO to scrub CO2 out of the air.
    Then we can bury the CaCO3. Rock solid!
    Sure to work. Can I have my $10 million grant please?

    • I think you forgot to mention that limestone is, primarily, CaCO3.
      There is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine.
      Perhaps they’ve discovered a perpetual $Green$ machine!
      (But if they apply for a patent, they’ll probably discover that Al Gore already invented it.)

      • Oh, there’s a flaw in the plan? Rats. I was banking on all the subsidies it would bring in.

        I know! We can buy carbon offsets for the CO2 emitted in the lime burning step, and get them back again when we bury the CaCO3.

        • A flaw in the plan?
          Since when has a flaw in the plan hindered the $Green Machine$?
          It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to make cash and power as in authority.
          (Not the kind of “power” will benefit anybody but themselves.)

  26. We just want to take the CO2 out of the combusted fossil fuel exhaust and turn that CO2 into good paying full time jobs and money.
    YouTube: The time of clean coal is now here
    A question I have for the Rock Solid Climate Solutions Group is: “How much per ton of CO2 is your projected cost going to be to produce the equipment to collect the CO2 from the atmosphere and then pipe and pump and bury under the ocean floor going to cost?

    • I recently read a review of the Phase 2.75 estimates for the Carbon Engineering process plant. Seemed like reasonable estimates for the preliminary phase of development.
      For a 1mm tonnes per year plant the cost was about $1 B. Plus op costs. I recall that worked out to $80 to $250 per tonne of CO2.
      Pretty expensive product. Certainly at the high end of most proposed carbon taxes.

  27. Any plan by humans to remove CO2 from the atmosphere should be subjected to “protection” regulations just as nuclear power plants are required to pass environmental regulations before approval.

    Any CO2 sequestration must be shown to be harmless to all living things, including photosynthesis based plant life, algae, trees, bamboo, etc. All species of plant must have representation.

    Suggested mottos
    “do not impair growth of freedom loving plants”
    or
    “No sequestration without green representation”
    or
    “Hell no, we want to grow”
    etc.

    A board of “plant advocate” experts can then speak on behalf of plant life.
    Plants must no longer tolerate abuse by animals.
    Act NOW !!!!

  28. All this talk of carbon sequestration has given me the hiccups. I fear if we reduce the level past 280 again they will never go away.

  29. ‘The project team includes scientists, engineers and social scientists’

    Wut? Social scientists? What is THEIR role?

    And what is a social scientist?

  30. What a colossal waste of time and money trying to starve the earth of life-supporting carbon dioxide!

    If these people are stupid enough to think this is a good idea, they should first eliminate their personal carbon dioxide first and stop breathing!

    And no, you won’t see a note of sarcasm on this comment; I’m serious as a damn heart attack!!

  31. This idea is similar to Tim Flannery’s hot rocks programme. He wanted to inject water into fractures in hot rocks to create steam to drive turbines. They found the idea to be sound but totally impractical as will these engineers and “scientists”? The engineers and “scientists” I understand but why are there social scientists involved?

  32. I think that we’ve found the Silurian attempt at sequestration:
    https://www.livescience.com/massive-underwater-gas-trough-mystery.html
    “Mysterious ‘Pocket’ of Underwater Gas Could Contain 50 Million Tons of CO2”
    (The Silurians, From “Dr. Who”, were a race of sentient dinosaurs who went into hibernation when they saw the asteroid coming and overset their wake-up timers. Much conflict between them and humans, with each laying claim to the planet – until the Daleks showed up.)

  33. Anytime man begins implementing “Solutions” on a massive government funded scale – they produce problems, orders of magnitude more serious than anything they had originally hoped to resolve. Be afraid, be very, very afraid. Pseudo -Scientists with money will eventually be the death of us all.

  34. The Earth is in a carbon drought. CO2 from human activities have put life back into the atmosphere. We should be thankful for that. Instead, we seek to pull CO2 out of there atmosphere. Our children will ask one day how we could have been so stupid as they will seed the atmosphere artificially with more CO2 in order to optimize living conditions for – every living thing.

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