Scientists Capture Carbon Dioxide and Inject It Into Rocks for Permanent Storage

Volcano and lava rocks near outside Reykjavik, Iceland, in April 2009. Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images

Updated | Scientists have discovered a way to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to inject safely into rocks for long-term storage. A negative-emissions plant created by Switzerland-based Climeworks is the first to take emissions directly from the air we breathe.

This possible solution to global warming is taking shape at a plant in Hellisheidi, Iceland, reports Chemical & Engineering News. The company explains in a press release that the carbon dioxide is then mixed with water, mingles with basaltic bedrock in the ground and turns into minerals for long-lasting storage.

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Last year, scientists at the plant discovered that carbon dioxide emissions could be put into the ground and turn into rocks quickly, according to Now they're capturing emissions from the sky to follow this process. The pilot plant is the start of what project organizers hope to be a solution that can someday be used worldwide.

The plant is part of the CarbFix2 project, the second iteration of the original CarbFix program that moved carbon dioxide from geothermal plants underground. The project was created in partnership with Reykjavik Energy and funded by a grant from the European Union.

This announcement comes just in time, if not a tad late. Earlier this week, Reuters reported that scientists warned we would need machines to help take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by 2030—only 13 years away. Scientists aim to keep temperatures no higher than 34.7 degrees Fahrenheit from preindustrial times, in accordance with The Paris Agreement.

The news organization writes that Bill Hare, physicist at Climate Analytics, a climate change institute in Berlin, said this goal is likely out of reach without new innovations. "It's something you don't want to talk about very much, but it's an unaccountable truth: We will need geoengineering by the mid-2030s to have a chance at the [1.5 degree] goal," Hare told Reuters.

With global temperatures continuing to rise every year, this approach may be the only viable solution for managing climate change. NASA says that in 136 years, 16 of the 17 warmest years have all taken place since 2001, and 2016 remains the hottest ever. The United Nations estimates that temperatures could increase 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050.

This story was updated to say "Switzerland-based Climeworks." It previously read "Swedish-based Climeworks."