Anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions continue to increase rapidly despite efforts aimed at curbing the release of such gases. One potentially long-term solution for offsetting these emissions is the capture and storage of carbon dioxide. In principle, fluid or gaseous carbon dioxide can be injected into the Earth's crust and locked up as carbonate minerals through chemical reactions with calcium and magnesium ions supplied by silicate minerals. This process can lead to near-permanent and secure sequestration, but its feasibility depends on the ease and vigour of the reactions. Laboratory studies as well as natural analogues indicate that the rate of carbonate mineral formation is much higher in host rocks that are rich in magnesium- and calcium-bearing minerals. Such rocks include, for example, basalts and magnesium-rich mantle rocks that have been emplaced on the continents. Carbonate mineral precipitation could quickly clog up existing voids, presenting a challenge to this approach. However, field and laboratory observations suggest that the stress induced by rapid precipitation may lead to fracturing and subsequent increase in pore space. Future work should rigorously test the feasibility of this approach by addressing reaction kinetics, the evolution of permeability and field-scale injection methods.
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We thank W. Broecker, K. Lackner, M. Stute, D. Goldberg, T. Takahashi, L. Streit, M. Godard and V. Prigiobbe for insightful comments and suggestions. This work was supported by a Columbia University Research Initiative in Science and Engineering Grant and by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
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Matter, J., Kelemen, P. Permanent storage of carbon dioxide in geological reservoirs by mineral carbonation. Nature Geosci 2, 837–841 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo683
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