Helen Jacintho: The new technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere


How dealing with nature’s carbon is vital to your sustainability

Much has been said about carbon emissions (CO2). Companies and countries have ambitious goals to achieve neutrality in their emissions and in this research, many solutions have emerged that promote the removal of carbon from the atmosphere and its re-storage in the soil, and many of these solutions are nature-based.

Within these disruptive nature-based solutions, during a vacation trip to Reykjavik, Iceland, I had the opportunity to visit the geothermal power plant On Power and Climeworks and Carbfix, which take carbon from the atmosphere, dissolve it in water and inject it into the soil, where the carbon reacts with rocks Basaltic, mineralized and thus is kept in the ground.

Read more: What is lab-grown meat?

But let’s move on in parts, we were taught in school that carbon is one of the most important and most abundant chemical elements in nature, who remembers the carbon cycle? But when did carbon become a problem? In our agriculture, for example, this element is part of a natural cycle, in which carbon from food production processes is removed from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, by trees, crops, or grass that feeds livestock.

Part of this carbon is used for plant growth and another part is transported by roots, providing energy for soil microorganisms, helping plants obtain nutrients. Microorganisms are responsible for the formation of complex and stable forms of carbon. These preserved soils will continue to store carbon for hundreds of thousands of years, thus shutting down the cycle.

It is a very different process from the burning of fossil fuels, petroleum derivatives and metallic coal that takes place in industrialized countries, where carbon, which has been trapped underground for millions of years, is dumped into the atmosphere through the burning of these fuels, without the natural resource cycle of recycling this carbon.

It is necessary to mitigate climate change, as we store excess carbon and the soil does this process in a natural way, which can be a real carbon dioxide sink.

However, trees, agriculture, and grass are not the only way to extract carbon from the atmosphere, as a huge amount of carbon is naturally stored in rocks.

This technology is applied in the On Power geothermal power plant and can be done in two ways, the first is directly in the geothermal power plant, removing the carbon produced in the energy production process, before it is released into the atmosphere, and the second technology, owned by Climeworks, takes carbon dioxide After it has already been released, it takes carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere.

In both processes, the two companies combine with Carbfix, which simulates and speeds up the natural process in which carbon dioxide dissolves in water and reacts with basalt rock, the most common type of igneous rock, forming stable minerals. and secure carbon storage.

Carbfix combines carbon taken directly from the atmosphere with water, producing an acidic liquid with a pH of 3.2 that is then injected into the soil in basalt rocks that dissolves calcium and magnesium ions in the porous basalt layers (known as basalts). vesicular) to generate calcium and magnesium carbonate. Samples collected at the site show that 95% of the injected carbon dioxide is mineralized within two years, occupying the pores of the rocks.

The use of this technology can be adapted to other sites, because basalt is abundant in nature, covering about 70% of the Earth’s surface, and is found in Brazil in Paraná, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul and the Guarani Aquifer Basin for example. which represents the second largest source of fresh groundwater on the planet) occupies an area of ​​1.2 million square kilometers and consists of sandy deposits and vesicular basaltic lava, in addition to the oceanic crust composed entirely of basaltic rocks,

Startup Climeworks raised $650 million in April 2022 to expand its technology from around 4,000 tons/year (the equivalent of annual emissions of 600 Europeans) to a plant capable of capturing 40,000 tons/year. The technology is on Bill Gates’ radar, and Climeworks has been added to Microsoft’s decarbonization portfolio that seeks to eliminate its emissions by 2030.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in April 2022, emissions must fall significantly after 2025 to maintain the Paris Treaty’s more conservative warming target of 2°C.

Climate change is one of the challenges that directly affects the agribusiness sector. To preserve our ecosystem, we need to look for innovative solutions like this example from Iceland, to turn carbon into rock to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions, while still combining sustainability and productivity to feed a growing global population.

Helen Jacintho is a Food Engineer by training and has worked for over 15 years at Fazenda Continental, Fazenda Regalito and in the genetic selection sector at Continental Brahmânia. She studied Business for Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado and is an Arbitrator in Morphology at ABCZ. He also studied marketing and worked in agribusiness.

Signed articles are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Forbes Brasil and its editors.

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