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Olivine, the Mineral That Could Fight Climate Change


olivineDiscovering the ultimate technique for sequestrating carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, has become the main aim of numerous scientific teams. First, there were the soil scientists, then the geo-engineers, now it is time for the geologists to jump in. Researchers state that naturally abundant olivine might be the key to removing CO2.

The potential of this beautiful green-ish rock in absorbing carbon has been known for quite some time, however it has never been explored to its fullest. Studies that have been conducted have somehow never made it to the spotlight, although they present statistics that can really work in our favor.

According to a team from the National Energy Technology Laboratory and the Los Alamos Nationa Laboratory, a ton of olivine can sequester almost a ton of CO2. OK, yes, considering how much CO2 there is in the atmosphere, the amount of rock needed to take care of the excess concentrations would be incredibly high, but still.

When compared to other geo-engineering techniques, the use of olivine is much more innocent, than lets say sending sulfur in the air. However, critics of the idea claim that mining of the rock could introduce greater amounts of emissions. Besides, even if it happens that we mine huge amounts of olivine only to find out that it does not really sequester CO2, we can always use the mineral to produce hydrogen or give it to Sony to put it in powerful long-lasting batteries.

Nevertheless, research teams have now decided to look into the idea in much greater detail. Scientists at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research are already testing whether spreading of olivine on the seabed could help CO2 absorption. At University of Antwerp, another team is looking into other benefits of the mineral, this time for agricultural purposes.

The commercial sector is also not far behind. Again in the Netherlands, a company called greenSand is looking into fighting climate change with, as their name points out, green sand boxes filled with olivine from Spain.

Will this work? Is olivine really the miracle mineral that will single-handedly fight climate change? I guess if there is a major breakthrough, we will surely hear about it. In the mean time, let’s try and minimize emissions and pollution as much as possible.

Image (c) Gero

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  1. I have heard that the material also heats up while creating this reaction. Could we use that as power, or does it not heat up enough.

    • I am working on this concept. So using the reaction heat and recover this.
      And also the process produces valuable re-useable products.

  2. Yep, I believe it is the Shuiling report that says that ONLY 4% of the energy would be consumed on the mining and crushing of such rocks necessary to offset the amount of excess CO2 we emit. Even better, it can be used to make better soil – as in greening the deserts. Of course, it’ll take the awesome energy from an advanced reactor that can “burn” spent fuel, such as TAP, to power the required (and perfectly good and harmless) planetary scale industrialization necessary to green a desert for the production of food and energy crops – and excess CO2 sequestering via brand new soil!




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