Carbon sequestration leaks could be history with Black Hills discovery
Work at Sanford Underground Research Facility finds microscopic bugs that turn carbon gas into solid rock
Billions are being spent to put more carbon dioxide in the ground rather than in the atmosphere.
However, the reality is that confined gases, like CO2, always look for paths out of enclosures. Thus, the potential for carbon stored underground leaking back into the atmosphere remains.
A new discovery by scientists in the Black Hills could change that, though.
A team of researchers at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead have found a set of naturally occurring microbes — microscopic bugs — that eat carbon dioxide gas and turn it into solid rock.
This process naturally occurs when carbon is pumped deep below the surface of the earth, particularly into rock layers with specific geochemical properties. But it usually takes up to 10 years to happen. Now, researchers have been able to isolate four types of microbes found at SURF and show they can turn large quantities of carbon dioxide into rocks that will remain stable and out of atmospheric circulation forever, according to officials with both SURF and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City.
“We found that we can store CO2 by crystallizing ... mineral in just ten days in microbe-bearing experiments,” said Dr. Gokce K Ustunisik, an associate professor in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.