The goal of the CarbMin Lab is to develop practical, long-term, and safe carbon sequestration strategies. We have developed three research streams to achieve this goal, each with a different focus but all informing each other to build a comprehensive research program. The bulk of our research falls under SCO2UT (Sequestration of CO2 in Ultramafic Tailings) research, which investigates carbon mineralization at ultramafic mine sites. In the CaMP (Carbon Mineralization Potential) research stream, researchers map and assess ultramafic rock deposits throughout BC and beyond, in order to quantify the full potential of carbon mineralization on a regional scale. Finally, the CarMA (Carbon Mineralization Analogues) research stream examines natural systems to enhance understanding of carbon mineralization processes outside the lab. Together, these research streams provide a framework for fostering learning, seeding ideas, and developing carbon mineralization technology.
Sequestration of CO2 in Ultramafic Tailings
Mines that produce mafic or ultramafic wastes (e.g., tailings) may have the capacity to more than offset their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the process of carbon mineralization. For more than a decade, we have documented CO2 sequestration in mine wastes at abandoned and active mine sites through direct capture from the atmosphere. Our research aims to determine the rate-limiting constraints on carbon mineralization, prioritize strategies for accelerating carbon mineralization, engage the mining industry in carbon sequestration strategies, and demonstrate low cost carbon sequestration technology.
In addition to working with individual mines to implement carbon mineralization strategies, we want to know the full potential of carbon mineralization to sequester CO2 in the entire province of British Columbia, and beyond. This involves identifying the locations, distribution, abundances, geometries, and qualities of ultramafic rock bodies that are suitable for carbon mineralization. Once these are mapped and characterized, then the amount of CO2 that can potentially be mineralized through reaction with these bodies can be quantified. This information will be translated into a Carbon Mineralization Index, to be used by decision-makers as companies and governments move towards negative emission technologies (NETs).
Natural analogue sites allow for the study of the geochemical and biological transformation of CO2 at the field-scale in different reaction environments, ranging from weathering at the Earth’s surface to hydrothermal alteration within the Earth’s crust. Investigations into natural systems further our understanding of the conditions required for efficient carbonation and conditions for long-term stability of CO2 as carbonate minerals. Hence, natural analogue studies can draw our attention to reaction pathways that can be exploited and utilized for accelerating carbon mineralization.