Iceland Power Station Turns CO2 Into Stone in Climate Change Breakthrough

mineralized carbon dioxide
A section of the mineralized carbon dioxide created by researchers in Iceland. Annette K. Mortensen

Scientists have found an efficient way to turn carbon dioxide into rock, offering a radical new solution to climate change.

A two-year project undertaken at the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant in Iceland saw CO2 injected into volcanic rock and transformed into carbonate minerals through a sped-up natural process.

"We need to deal with rising carbon emissions and this is the ultimate permanent storage—turn them back to stone," said the University of Southampton's Juerg Matter, who led the research published Thursday in the journal Science.

"Our results show that between 95 and 98 percent of the injected CO2 was mineralized over the period of less than two years, which is amazingly fast."

Previous techniques to capture and store carbon dioxide have involved injecting it into sandstone or sealing it in underground chambers, both of which are costly and come with the risk of leakage.

By dissolving the CO2 in water and injecting it into basaltic rock between 400 and 800 meters below the power plant, the researchers were able to permanently mineralize the gas.

"It's what we hoped for… and in some ways better," David Goldberg told Associated Press, a geophysicist at Columbia University who was not part of the study but praised it. "What's going on here is a natural process being accelerated."

The researchers hope that the study can now be scaled up to test if the process risks causing earthquakes. Goldberg believes, if successful, the process could be used to store CO2 beneath the ocean floor.