Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Carbon Dioxide Removal and Storage

Background:

Anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere are the primary cause of global warming. It is now clear that reducing emissions of CO2 won’t be enough to achieve the Paris Agreement goal to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5 °C– we will also need to actively remove and store approximately 800 Gt of residual atmospheric CO2 emissions by the end of the century.

This urgently requires the development and demonstration of greenhouse gas removal and storage technologies. We are exploring a number of these including: (1) Enhanced rock weathering (whereby atmospheric CO2 reacts with rocks and is converted to ocean alkalinity). (2) Mineral carbonation (conversion of atmospheric CO2 to stable carbonate minerals, both at the Earth’s surface (ex situ) and below ground (in situ). (3) Direct air capture of CO2 using chemical processes that capture CO2 from ambient air.  The Geochemistry Group has already shown that CO2 injected into basaltic rocks in Iceland can be completely converted to stable carbonate minerals within two years (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/sci/352/6291/1312.full.pdf). We have also developed methodologies for monitoring for potential leakage from sub-seafloor CO2 storage sites in the North Sea, which is vital for public assurance that CO2 storage is secure. 

Key Questions:

1. What is the efficacy of enhanced rock weathering for CO2 removal? – are model predictions of CO2 removal valid?

2. How quickly does mineral carbonation occur? – what are the optimum conditions for mineral carbonation and how could it be speeded up?

3. Can mine waste be used as a feedstock for enhanced rock weathering? – do finely-ground mine waste materials react sufficiently quickly with CO2 to meet the Paris Agreement target?

4. How can we detect and quantify CO2 leakage from geologic (e.g. sub-seafloor) storage reservoirs? – what new technologies be leveraged to improve our ability to monitor transport and transformation of CO2 beneath the seabed?

5. How can we emulate natural carbon mineralisation in peridotites for engineered CO2 removal from air?

6. What are the fundamental feedback mechanisms between in situ mineralisation and reservoir permeability?

CO2 mineralisation in basalt
CO2 mineralisation in basalt – (Image: Sandra Snæbjörnsdottir)
CarbFix pilot
CarbFix pilot CO2 injection site during drilling (Image: Juerg Matter)

How do we do it?

We are conducting large scale field trials to demonstrate the efficacy of enhanced rock weathering by application of finely-crushed basalt to agricultural crops in the UK, the USA and Malaysia (www.lc3m.org). We are leading large international initiatives, such as the Oman Drilling Project to study natural carbon mineralisation in peridotites and have participated in international pilot CO2 injection projects (e.g. CarbFix, Iceland).

We use cutting edge analytical techniques including stable and radiogenic isotope analysis to verify and quantify CO2 removal. We use natural and artificial tracers to monitor and quantify transport and transformation of CO2 in the environment.

We are working with industrial partners to quantify reaction rates between mine waste materials and CO2 and develop new techniques to couple direct air capture of CO2 with mineralisation.

Develop reactive transport models to simulate CO2 migration in different geologic storage reservoirs and to evaluate potential risks of leakage.

Our work is being used to inform and develop policies for achieving net zero carbon emissions. Examples include the Royal Society and the US Energy Futures Initiative.

Natural carbonation of mantle peridotites
Natural carbonation of mantle peridotites, Oman (Image: Juerg Matter)
Sample collection
Sample collection, Oman (Image: Juerg Matter)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who in the Geochemistry Group is involved?

Prof Rachael James; Prof Juerg Matter; Prof Damon Teagle.

Links to other Research Themes

Fluid flow through the Earth

Equipment and technique development in Geology and Geophysics

Sustainable, safe and productive oceans

Development of photosynthetic microbes for algal biofuel and other biotechnologies

Basalt spreading
Basalt spreading, US Mid-West corn belt. Image: M. Masters (Illinois)

Associated Projects

Oman Drilling Project

GGREW: Greenhouse Gas Removal by Enhanced Weathering

Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation

Characterisation of Major Overburden Leakage Pathways above Sub-Seafloor CO2 Storage Reservoirs in the North Sea (CHIMNEY)

Privacy Settings