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B.C. research team leads effort to turn greenhouse gas emissions into solid rock

WATCH: An international effort funded by a B.C. institute is trying to develop a way to take carbon dioxide out of the air and turn it into rock at the bottom of the ocean. Kylie Stanton reports.

It has the potential to be transformative technology: a way to capture greenhouse gas emissions and store them forever inside solid rock.

The project is called “Solid Carbon,” and it’s being funded in part by the University of Victoria’s Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS).

“We have to get to net zero,” PICS executive director Sybil Seitzinger said. “Decreasing the concentration of [carbon dioxide] in the atmosphere, because we haven’t been able to decrease emissions rapidly enough.”

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Oil and gas industry taking steps to reduce carbon footprint
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The idea, which is the focus of a number of teams all over the world, is to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and inject it into basalt rock below the ocean floor, where it will turn into rock.

It has been done before. Scientist in Iceland have been successful capturing the CO2, dissolving it in water, and pumping into basalt rock on land.

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This project builds on that idea, instead utilizing the oceans — where 90 per cent of the earth’s basalt resides.

“So, it wouldn’t be something that would be exclusive to one location, one country,” said Seitzinger.  “It would be a technology that could be used around the world.”

The project is being called “highly ambitious.” While the science is solid, there are many challenges to overcome in order to make the process cost-effective.

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Ocean Networks Canada president and CEO Kate Moran said the team remains optimistic.

“We hope that it will be an industry that will grow here, and could possibly make British Columbia the hub for this particular negative emission technology,” she said.

It’s not the only solution, but potentially part of the big picture that will help to reverse the effects of climate change — before it’s too late.