The US Department of Energy has awarded a Rio Tinto-led team $2.2 million in funding to explore carbon storage possibilities at the Tamarack Nickel Project site in Minnesota.
The team of climate and research professionals will study carbon mineralization technology as a way to store carbon as rock. The mining company Rio Tinto will add $4 million in funding toward the three-year project.
Carbon mineralization uses natural chemical reactions to transform captured carbon dioxide into rock and store it underground. The carbon then cannot escape back into the atmosphere.
Rio Tinto’s team will work with Carbfix, a carbon mineralization company in Iceland, Columbia University, Advantek Waste Management Services and the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), which has produced carbon mineralization in Washington state. Talon Metals, which is the majority owner and operator of the Tamarack Nickel Project, is contributing ore body knowledge and land access for the study.
“This project will bring together leading industrial players, academics and experts demonstrating the international partnerships needed for accelerated climate action,” says Carbfix CEO Dr. Edda Aradottir.
Carbon capture can be a key component of reaching net zero goals. A report by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions found the process could capture more than 90% of carbon emissions from power plants and industrial facilities, and overall carbon capture could reduce 14% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions needed to reach climate goals by 2050.
An International Energy Agency report says carbon capture, utilization and storage use needs to increase by 50% for those international net zero targets to be met.
Most current large-scale carbon mineralization projects, such as Carbfix’s Iceland operation, focus on areas with certain types of rock formations known as basaltic lava geology, Rio Tinto says. The PNNL has also been studying carbon capture since 2011 and found that most CO2 injected into basalts had been transformed into carbonate minerals in less than two years.
The Tamarack Nickel Project will include porous ultramafic rock, according to Rio Tinto. The resource sits outside of nickel and other battery minerals, the company says, but it has the potential to store hundreds of millions of tons of carbon in solid form through the carbon mineralization process.
The project will include laboratory studies, field work and studies of the area’s hydrology. It will also assess different carbon mineralization technologies and develop a roadmap by 2025 to help make decisions on implementing the carbon capture process.
Carbon mineralization is among the different carbon capture methods being studied and implemented. A 2021 survey of found that 65% of executives see carbon capture as key to reaching company net zero targets.
An effort by UK company Carbon Clean offers a platform that is 10-times smaller than traditional technologies and will cut the cost of carbon capture by $50 a ton. In New Mexico, Piñon Midstream’s facility captures and permanently sequesters carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide from natural gas and redelivers sweet gas to third-party midstream operators.
The Tamarack site will also host the first deployment of Carbon Capture’s Direct Air Capture technology, which takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that could be used as a source of carbon for mineralization.
Additionally, Rio Tinto is partnering with Carbfix on what it says is the world’s first carbon mineral storage hub, which will be located in Iceland. The two will also have carbon capture and storage at the ISAL aluminum smelter.
The Department of Energy’s funding for the Tamarack project is part of the ARPA-E Innovation Challenge.
“Our aim is to deliver carbon storage solutions that can help to meet climate targets by reducing and offsetting emissions from our operations and in other industries, and to explore the emerging commercial opportunities carbon storage may offer at Rio Tinto sites around the world,” says Rio Tinto Chief Scientist Dr. Nigel Steward.