New Research Will Study CO2 Mineralization Systems To Help Scale CO2 Storage

New Research Will Study CO2 Mineralization Systems To Help Scale CO2 Storage - Carbon Herald
Credit: Indiana University

CO2 mineralization is one of the most durable and permanent approaches available for long-term CO2 underground storage. Chen Zhu, a globally recognized geologist and professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, has received an award of $736,000 from the National Science Foundation to solve long-standing gaps in scientists’ understanding of CO2 interactions with water and rocks when CO2 is stored underground. 

The researcher will investigate critical geochemical processes that trap CO2 in rocks to better predict the potential for atmospheric carbon removal and storage via CO2 mineralization at scale. One of the processes at focus is the interaction of carbon dioxide with water in basalt formations. Basalt rocks have high concentrations of ionized calcium and magnesium that attract the carbon dioxide and bind with it to form calcite, dolomite, and magnesite. 

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Mr Zhu’s team will introduce a rare isotope to the mineral system and then monitor it with mass spectrometry to gain insight into the system’s geochemical kinetics, which describe how natural materials react under a given set of conditions.

Professor Chen Zhu. Credit: Indiana University

In past experiments, Zhu has successfully applied isotopes to study single mineral reactions. This time, the method will be applied to multi-mineral reactions which present new challenges. According to Mr Zhu, it is difficult to define precisely which minerals are dissolving and which are precipitating into new compounds.

“However, this knowledge is critical. For example, clay minerals will also precipitate, competing with CO2 for available calcium and magnesium ions. Using multiple isotopic tracers, these experiments will yield unprecedented data that can be leveraged by the scientific community,” explains Mr Zhu.

The data from the experiments is critical for the large community of climate scientists, geochemists, soil scientists, oceanographers, and others who are working on scaling up carbon capture and storage, as per Sudhakar Pamidighantam, a senior scientist with the IU Pervasive Technology Institute and a co-PI of the project. 

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“Our science gateway will make it easier for researchers to build on this work and maximize its impact for society,” he adds. 

The data will be used to inform models that can be simulated on IU’s high-performance computers to test a wide range of mineral systems relevant to carbon capture and storage. It will be made available to the scientific community through a public interactive data portal called a science gateway. The gateway will give other researchers the opportunity to download the data, conduct their own analysis, update existing models, or run entirely new models.

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