Basalt of the Earth; Let’s Talk Sequestration of a Trillion tonnes of CO2

Flat World Partners
4 min readDec 16, 2020

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As we have learned in the most recent newsletter, the list of companies [] that can efficiently pull CO2 out of the air is increasing rapidly. Some companies are even capturing CO2 and using it to make concrete and consumer goods. Captured carbon can be used as food for algae that can feed cows and enhance soil quality. Oil and gas companies can capture it to conduct enhanced oil recovery though some disagree about the usefulness of this practice.

However, given this unparalleled year, many are considering unique solutions to all kinds of problems. A key proposal of Foundation for Climate Restoration asks: “What if 1 Trillion tonnes — the amount that needs to be removed to get us to pre-industrial levels — could be captured and pumped deep into basalt formations where it would be mineralized into limestone permanently?”

The technology exists to do this. A company called Climeworks [] has developed scalable, low-energy CO2 filtering machines that can operate anywhere. It has been part of a project called CarbFix that has for years been capturing carbon and injecting it into porous basalt, turning it from a gas to stone. And this is significant considering every continent has large basalt deposits. As it stands today, there is more than enough capacity to store a trillion tonnes.

From the Foundation For Climate Restoration we find that it costs about $600 to capture and store a tonne of carbon (2019 estimate). By 2025 Climeworks thinks this will fall to $100/tonne. Theoretically, we could estimate that by 2050 all excess carbon could be removed at a cost of about $100 Trillion or $3 Trillion a year for 30+ years. To put this into perspective: A trillion dollars is about 23% of the US budget in 2019 according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. By comparison, the global economy is about $80 trillion/annum according to the World Economic Forum (2018).

So as we bring this traumatic year to a close, let’s think about big opportunities and big solutions that could provide a glimmer of hope for the future.

Heather Langsner, VP Impact and Technical Analysis

Microsoft is going to remove its historical carbon emission by 2050. []

While we would not want this to be a license to emit, particularly for some industries that got us into this situation in the first place, some industries like airlines might be cleared to use carbon removal in their business strategies to offset their emissions.

Want to learn more about Climeworks? Check out the Harvard Business Review case study on the business. []




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