FAQ

WHY CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE (CCS)? 

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming of more than 2°C would have serious consequences, including increased draughts, floods, and storms. Millions would lose their livelihoods and have to migrate, causing increased tensions and the risk of war.  

The Paris Agreement from the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015 sets out a global action aiming to keep the global temperature rise “well below 2°C” from the pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, “recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”. According to the International Energy Agency the goals of the Paris agreement can be achieved by pushing already available strategies to their maximum practical limits. This means that we do not need to depend on unforeseen breakthroughs in technology – but it is essential to advance and apply globally already existing technologies. 

CCS is one of the essential technologies required to achieve the goals of the Paris agreementCCS is the key technology for 1) reducing emissions from fossil fuel power plants while these are still used for power production; 2) limiting emissions from many industrial processes such as steel, aluminum, and cement production; and 3) to deliver "negative emissions" by removing and sequestering CO2 directly from air by the second half of the century. All proposed pathways to limit global warming to 1.5 °C require some degree of direct CO2 removal, and the goals of the Paris agreement will not be met without substantial application of CCS - with an estimated total of 190 GtCO2 needing to be stored by 2060. 

HOW DOES CARBFIX DIFFER FROM OTHER CCS PROJECTS? 

The most widely applied CCS method involves the injection of supercritical or gaseous CO2 into sedimentary basins, depleted oil and gas reservoirs and coal beds. This method relies on an impermeable cap rock to hold buoyant gaseous and/or supercritical CO2 in the subsurface as the CO2 is less dense than formation waters providing a driving force for it to escape back to the surface via fractures, or abandoned wells. 

The CarbFix project mainly differs from these CCS projects in two parts. Firstly, the CO2 is dissolved in water prior to or during injection into the subsurface. By dissolving the CO2 no cap rock is required because the dissolved CO2 is not buoyant and does not migrate back to the surface. Secondly, CarbFix focuses on injecting CO2 into basalts which are reactive and contain high amounts of divalent cations such as Ca, Mg and Fe. Chemical reactions between surrounding host rock and injected CO2 loaded fluids result in the formation of carbonate minerals for permanent storage of the injected CO2 

The bulk of the CO2 is trapped in mineral within two years of injection – which is much faster than previously thought possible, turning the CO2 into stone for safe and permanent storage. 

HOW SAFE AND EFFICIENT IS THE CARBFIX INJECTION METHOD? 

The largest risk of geologic carbon storage is believed to be leakage of the CO2 either into the atmosphere or into overlying fresh-water aquifers. The CarbFix method is considered safer than conventional CCS methods because the CO2 is dissolved prior to or during injection and therefore does not have the tendency to leak through the surface – since the CO2-charged water is denser and has the tendency to sink rather than to rise back to the surface.  

Chemical reactions between the basaltic host rock and CO2 loaded injection water have also been shown to be rapid, - over 95% of the injected CO2 is rapidly turned into minerals in less than two years for save and permanent storage. 

WHY IS CARBON MINERALIZATION SO RAPID IN CARBFIX? 

The dissolution of CO2 prior to or during injection ensures that chemical reactions between host rock and injected fluid begin to take place immediately after injection. The high reactivity and chemical composition of the basaltic host rock (up to 25% by weight of calcium, magnesium, and iron) play an even larger role in the efficiency of permanent mineral storage in basalts, since these metals combine with the injected CO2 for permanent mineralization.  

WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT BASALTS? 

Basaltic rocks are highly reactive and contain the metals needed for permanently immobilizing CO2 through the formation of carbonate minerals. They are often fractured and porous, containing storage space for the mineralized CO2. Furthermore, basalt is the most common rock type on the surface of Earth, covering ~5% of the continents and most of the oceanic floor. 

It has been estimated that the active rift zone in Iceland could store over 400 Gt CO2. The theoretical storage capacity of the ocean ridges is significantly larger than the estimated 18,500 Gt CO2 stemming from the burning of all fossil fuel carbon on Earth. The question remains, how much of this theoretical storage capacity is feasible to use for mineral storage of CO2. 

The porespace, chemical composition, and wide distribution of basalts makes it the perfect candidate to develop the CarbFix process. However, other reactive rocks such as andesites, peridotites, breccias and sedimentary formations containing Ca, Mg and Fe rich silicate minerals can also do the job. Studies on that subject are undertaken in CarbFix2 and the related GECO project. 

CAN THE CARBFIX METHOD BE APPLIED ELSEWHERE? 

The CarbFix method can be applied wherever a CO2 source is located near feasible rock formations and a water source (fresh water, water from the storage formation or sea water).  

The most feasible formations are young basalts, where faults and fractures are still open, and not pore space is yet filled with secondary minerals, but other rock types could also be considered.  

HOW MUCH WATER IS NEEDED FOR DISSOLVING CO2? 

At 25 bar CO2 pressure and 25°C, the water demand to fully dissolve CO2 is 27 tons of pure water for each ton of CO2, but 31 tons of seawater are required at the same temperature. The amount of water required for dissolving CO2 decreases with increasing CO2 partial pressure in the gas stream, lowering the temperature and lowering the salinity of the water. 

CAN SEAWATER BE USED INSTEAD OF FRESHWATER? 

Yes, seawater can be used for dissolving CO2 instead of freshwater, enabling the applicability of the CarbFix method offshore and in coastal areas 

The basaltic ocean ridges are porous and vast amounts of seawater are circulated annually through them by natural processes or about 100 Gtonnes annually; this is about three times greater than the present mass of anthropogenic release of CO2 to the atmosphere. 

One of the aims of the EU-funded CarbFix2 project is to optimize the use of seawater for capture and injection of CO2. This is an important step in the development of CarbFix which can increase the geographical applicability of the method. 

CAN THE WATER USED FOR DISSOLVING CO2 BE REUSED OR IS IT CONTAMINATED? 

Yes, the water can be circulated and reused after CO2 has been removed from it via carbonate formation. At our pilot injection site in Iceland, we can even drink the water after the CO2 is gone.  

A positive side effect of the carbonation process is that heavy metals tend to precipitate into the carbonates along with Ca, Mg, Fe, and CO2, resulting in even lower concentrations than those found naturally in the storage formation. 

IS CARBFIX THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE? 

CarbFix is not the ultimate solution to climate change but rather one of the methods that can be used to tackle global warming. CarbFix is a new tool that can be used concurrently with other known and future methods.  

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that large scale application of carbon capture and storage is vital if the world is to limit global temperature increase to below 2°C. The CarbFix method increases the portfolio of CCS by providing a safe, efficient way to permanently immobilize CO2 where basalts and water sources are located near COsources and thus contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

WHO ARE INVOLVED WITH THE PROJECT? 

CarbFix was founded by four partners in 2007; the University of Iceland, CNRS in Toulouse, the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York and Reykjavik Energy. Several universities and research institutes, and over 100 people have contributed to the project, thereof a number of Ph.D. and MS students as well as engineers and technicians. Current partners, working on the CarbFix2 project, are Reykjavik Energy, CNRS, University of Iceland, Amphos21 and Climeworks. 

CarbFix is also being researched in a couple of international research projects. Including GECO and S4CE. These two projects receive funding through the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.

 

WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE PROJECT? 

Based on successful pilot scale injections in 2012, experimental industrial scale injection began in June 2014. CO2 and H2S emissions from the Hellisheidi power plant are captured in a gas abatement plant through a simple scrubbing process. The gas is dissolved in condensate from the power plant and returned back home to the geothermal system within the basaltic bedrock where they came from. In 2016 the injection was further scaled up, doubling the amount of the injected gases. The capturing capacity of the gas abatement plant after the scale up is up now about 12,000 of COand 7,000 tons H2S annually, or about 33% and 75% of the emissions from the power plant, respectively 

It is estimated that at the end of 2019 about 81 thousand tons of gases will have been injected, thereof about 49 thousand tons of CO2In November 2019, ON Power, a subsidiary of Reykjavík Energy, revealed plans to ramp up carbon capture and storage (CCS) operations at their power plants in Iceland. This included both Hellisheiði and Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plants. The statement followed the announcement that ON Power plans to reach carbon neutrality by 2030 (previously goal was 2040). In order to achieve this goal, ON Power will 1) double the amount of CO2 and H2S currently reinjected into the subsurface using the CarbFix method at the Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Plant, 2) conduct experimental reinjection at the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant and 3) utilise the excess carbon in collaboration with nearby industries.  

The fate of the injected gases is monitored through injection of tracers and geochemical monitoring program, but results indicate rapid and permanent mineralisation as was to be expected based on results from pilot injections.

In June 2019, a Letter of Intent (LoI) for exploring further exploitation of the CarbFix method for large emitters in Iceland was signed in Reykjavík. The aim is to thoroughly investigate whether the CarbFix method can become a viable option, both technically and financially, to safely store Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from large emitters in Iceland. The companies will each look for ways to realize carbon neutrality in 2040The LoI was signed between the Prime Minister of Iceland, Reykjavík Energy, the Aluminium and Silicon Industry in Iceland (Elkem, Fjarðarál, PCC and Rio Tinto), the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Industries and Innovation and the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. 

INTERNSHIP/JOB OPPORTUNITIES/THESIS ETC. 

All applications go through our official job position website; https://jobs.50skills.com/orkuveita/is, we recommend that you sign up as a general applicant (“Almenn Umsókn”) and your application will be active for the next 4 months. This site is used for applications for job positions, internships, thesis opportunities and other CarbFix related work. 

As all our positions are advertised, we also recommend that you regularly visit our hiring websitecarbfix.com and twitter account for information on job openings.