MIT scientists put forward a new method that can solve the carbon storage problem

Today's carbon capture and storage initiatives are “hellishly complicated," says the lead researcher.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Direct Air Capture technology.IGphotography/iStock

In today's climate landscape, there's a lot of talk about carbon, capture, and storage. However, not all of it is good.

Just back in January, oil giant Shell's Quest plant, which has been designed to capture carbon emissions from oil sands operations and store them underground to reduce carbon emissions, was found to produce more emissions than it captured.

To be fair to Shell, carbon, capture, and storage is difficult to get right. Now, MIT scientists are offering some guidance on how to undertake this process effectively, according to an article released by the institution on Thursday.

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Guidance offered

MIT released some ideas on what it would take for the world to keep global temperatures within the limits deemed safe by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“If we want to be anywhere near those limits [of 1.5 or 2 C], then we have to be carbon neutral by 2050, and then carbon negative after that,” said Matěj Peč, a geoscientist and the Victor P. Starr Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS).

Peč developed a proposal for the MIT Climate Grand Challenges competition called the Advanced Carbon Mineralization Initiative and what it suggests is nothing short of impressive. The researcher has ambitious plans to bring geologists, chemists, and biologists together to innovate ways to speed up the process by which carbon pumped underground is turned into rock making the process of permanently storing carbon underground workable under different geological conditions. 

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He also plans to investigate the best possible areas to conduct these processes. 

“That’s what the geology has to offer,” said Peč. “You look for the places where you can safely and permanently store these huge volumes of CO2.”

Hellishly complicated

Peč called most of today's carbon capture and storage initiatives “hellishly complicated." The researcher hopes his Climate Grand Challenge proposal would identify ways to make mineralization happen more rapidly by mixing the carbon dioxide with different fluids before injecting it underground. If it proves successful, it could revolutionize how we deal with carbon emissions.