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Scottish earth scientists awarded £1 million to track CO2 storage in volcanic rock

A team of Scotland’s leading Earth scientists have received £1m of UK Government funding to develop new ways to measure the capture of carbon dioxide in volcanic rock.

This relatively new carbon storage technique, known as mineralisation, has been used successfully in Iceland, where the reactivity of the basalt volcanic rock converts the carbon dioxide rapidly into new minerals, safely locking it away underground.

Carbon capture and storage is becoming increasingly important to reduce the levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, where they are the principal contributor to global heating.

The scientists will work with Icelandic mineralisation operator Carbfix to test new methods to track the carbon dioxide being captured from the country’s largest geothermal power plant and verify its safe and permanent storage.

Dr Stuart Gilfillan, of the University of Edinburgh, and his team will use mineral analysis techniques and a novel CO2 fingerprinting tool, currently being patented by Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service.

The INCLUSION project, in collaboration with Carbfix and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), has been awarded £1 million of funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)’s Pushing the Frontiers scheme.

Dr Gilfillan said: “This project will combine the state-of-the-art scientific laboratory facilities available in Scotland with the world’s leading CO2 mineralisation project to provide essential understanding of how to safely lock away CO2 underground in basalts.

“We will also develop our understanding of the reactivity of basalt and other volcanic rock, to understand the potential of mineralisation in other parts of the world, such as Scotland.”

Professor Fin Stuart, Director of SUERC, said: “We will determine the unique chemical fingerprint of the injected CO2 at Carbfix, and record how that changes during the storage process. This will enable us to determine how, and how much, CO2 is stored and provide confidence in the amount of CO2 that can be stored by mineralisation in the future, which can also aid participation in carbon credit schemes.”  

Dr Sandra Ósk Snæbjörnsdóttir, Head of CO2 Mineral Storage at Carbfix, said: “Carbfix is born out of collaboration between academia and industry. Partnerships with prestigious research institutes such as the University of Edinburgh helps us to increase our understanding of the natural processes we build our technology on, add to our existing verification methods,  and move forward the technical development. Furthermore, it gives new perspectives, and trains the next generation of experts in the field. We are honoured to collaborate with this world-leading team of scientists, and excited for the outcome.”

About Carbfix

Carbfix is the world’s first CO2 mineral storage operator. Since 2012, Carbfix has mineralized over 90 thousand tons of CO2 in Iceland using proprietary technology. This proven, safe, permanent, and cost-effective carbon storage solution is ripe for significant upscaling both in Iceland and worldwide. Carbfix’s largest current project is Coda Terminal, recipient of a EUR 115M grant from the EU’s Innovation Fund, with an expected capacity to mineralize 3 million tons of CO2 annually.

 About The University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh is a global university, rooted in Scotland. We are globally recognised for our research, development and innovation and we have provided world-class teaching to our students for more than 425 years. We are the largest university in Scotland, with more than 41,000 students and 15,000 staff.  We are a founding member of the UK’s Russell Group of leading research universities and a member of the League of European Research Universities. Edinburgh Innovations is the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service. We bring University of Edinburgh research to industry, working to identify ideas with value and facilitating the process of bringing them to life in real-world applications. We make ideas work for a better world. Visit our website.

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