Science News

Sweeping CO2 under a carpet...of lava

Sun, 17th Dec 2006

Part of the show The Christmas Q & A Show

Researchers are planning to use the porous rocks in lava fields to combat global warming, by locking away the carbon dioxide from power stations. Peter McGrail, from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington, and colleagues have found that water saturated with carbon dioxide reacts with volcanic basalts to produce insoluble calcium carbonate, the same material that furs up pipes and kettles. So what goes in shouldn't come back out. "It [CO2] completely converts to solid rock, so leakage is not a concern," says McGrail. Next year the team will pump 3000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of a few hours of power station output, about two thirds of a mile beneath the surface of a western US lava field and then track the movement of the gas below ground and check for leaks. Let's hope their solution is water-tight, or at least gas-tight.

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