Thursday, September 22, 2011

As SPICE Goes Up, CarbFix Goes Down

While the SPICE aerosol injection project continues to attract media attention, another important research effort is getting underway in Iceland. The experiment, known as CarbFix, seeks to test a novel carbon reduction method combining features of CCS and enhanced weathering. Specifically, the CarbFix project will separate CO2 from a geothermal power plant, add water to make "seltzer," and inject the carbonated water into an underground basalt formation. At depth, high pressure will convert the liquid to carbonic acid, which will then combine with the surrounding basalt to form limestone, "fixing" carbon into the rock on an essentially permanent basis. Reykjavik Energy and several partners will conduct this test over a six- to twelve-month period to assess the potential of CarbFix as a CDR strategy.

CarbFix represents something of a second try by Iceland to remake itself as a climate and energy technology pioneer. Prior to the country's 2008 economic collapse, Icelandic political and business leaders sought to position the island as a world leader in clean energy (particularly geothermal), with the goal of eliminating the nation's carbon footprint in the near future. Financial turmoil brought this to a halt. Now, with 90 percent of its subsurface composed of volcanic basalt, Iceland is returning to the energy frontier, this time with a climate engineering twist.