Carbon waste is a worldwide concern. With potentially millions to billions being spent to trap and store carbon, the economics and implementation of some measures become serious issues. Various solutions have been proposed ranging from storage in the sea via sand to sinking it in wetlands has been proposed. The Department of Energy even has awarded $126.6M USD in grants to evaluating the feasibility of geological sequestration -- storage underground.
California startup Carbon Sciences eschews standard thoughts on sequestration and is proposing a slightly more logical solution -- make something actually useful out of captured carbon emissions to justify the cost, thus making capture a matter of smart economics, rather than one of proving or disproving global warming.
The company feels an ideal candidate is calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is an extremely useful compound used, among other things, in antacids, baby diapers, iron purification, as plastic filler, in concrete, and in makeup.
Carbon Sciences has developed an efficient process to react carbon dioxide in the air to form calcium carbonate. The process uses only waste rock -- so called "tailings", mineral mining leftovers -- for its calcium. This rock waste is ground up into nanoparticles, a critical step. The NanoRock, as the company calls the resulting mix, is highly reactive thanks to a large surface area to mass ratio.
What about existing carbon storage sites, such as those under development by the DOE? Well, according to Carbon Sciences, these could now be harvested to form stable calcium carbonate, even yielding some nice profits.
In an interview with ecoblog CleanTechnica, Carbon Sciences CEO Derek McLeish warned that his process was the only safe way to capture carbon on land. He said that storing carbon underground by current methods was foolish as an earthquake could easily release it, meaning all the money to trap it had been wasted.
Says Mr. McLeish, "There’s an infinite timeline when you bury CO2. Transforming CO2 into a high value product is much more like recycling."
The company plans to move quickly to jump on this hot new market. It says it will have a full pilot plan running within 2-3 years. It says from there it will look to expand, with McLeish stating, "We’ll be developing relationships and business opportunities the second we get through the mini pilot plant phase."
While there are many lines of thinking about carbon sequestration, Carbon Sciences' premise seems far more logical than most -- take something that's waste (mining leftovers and carbon) and make something valuable (calcium carbonate).