Stockholm (NordSIP) – “CarbFix and Sulfix are an industrial process to capture CO2 and sulfur from emission sources and permanently store them as rock under the surface,” explains Ingvar Stefánsson (pictured), CFO at Reykjavik Energy (OR), Iceland’s largest energy provider, at a recent event.
Iceland is a leader in renewable sources of energy. Over 80% of the country’s energy from renewable hydro and geothermal sources. However, much of Iceland’s success is the result of its privileged geography and geology. CarbFix – a joint research project of OR, the University of Iceland, France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Columbia University in the USA, with funding from the EU and the USA’s federal government – is a contribution to international carbon capture and storage (CCS) research. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), CCS could reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 19%. The IEA estimates that fighting climate change could cost 70% more without CCS.
The process, which will be featured in an upcoming episode of David Attenborough’s Climate Change – The Facts documentary series for the BBC, “allows pollution to be turned into rock using geothermal heat with a minimum environmental footprint,” explains Stefánsson. “Carbon dioxide and sulphide are resolved in water and injected deep down into basaltic rock. Minerals are released from the basalt which are then combined with gases and form stable types of rock, i.e. calcite and pyrite after some years.”
CarbFix is one of a range of potential projects that OR’s green bond, issued in April 2019, can fund. The project started in 2007 but the solution was only found three years ago, according to Stefánsson. “Prior to OR’s project the consensus was that the mineralisation could take as long as hundreds of years, but the formation of stable types of rock from the combination of basalt mineral and gases takes place within just two years with our process,” explains OR’s CFO.
According to OR’s estimates, the carbon capture and storage process costs about US$25/ton, which is within the €2.5 – €75/ton of CO2 emissions cost range of carbon compensation schemes provided by carbon compensation schemes or airlines.
While there are some concerns about the potential seismic risks created by the storage process, the carbon capture technology and its potential applications to the direct capture of CO2 from the air are extremely encouraging. Another problem is how specific to Iceland CarbFix is. As noted in a recent Phys.org article, “the main drawback of the method is that it requires large volumes of desalinated water, which, while abundant in Iceland, is rare in many other parts of the planet.” According to project director Edda Sif Aradottir, “the process uses a lot of water, but we gain a lot by permanently getting rid of CO2 that otherwise would be floating around the atmosphere.”