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Canadian carbon capture for the Virgin Earth Challenge?

February 23, 2007

One week ago serial entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and past presidential hopeful eco-celebrity Al Gore launched the Virgin Earth Challenge; a US $25M prize seeking technology capable of removing at least 1 billion tonnes of GHGs from earth’s atmosphere annually. Carbon capture and storage (also known as carbon sequestration) has many different technologies in testing, development, and even commercial use. However, there’s a Canadian technology which I think is much more promising.

Existing carbon sequestration technologies all have pretty much the same theme: bury the problem under the rug. Although the details are as different as they are numerous, pretty much every such technology aims to pump carbon dioxide deep underground to store it. The problem is that this is relatively untested technology, and relies heavily on the long-term stability of the geological layers the carbon dioxide is being pumped into. There are fears of sequestered gas finding a way out, thus rendering the exercise useless at best, and deadly due to suffocation at worst.

A company in Quebec City called CO2 Solution is developing what looks to be a much more promising biological technology that captures carbon dioxide and turns it into bicarbonate. What I think is even more exciting is that the bicarbonate can then be turned into limestone.

I can only imagine that if you can turn bicarbonate into limestone, it would be just as easy to turn it into lime, which would then be extremely useful in partly displacing cement in building construction. Imagine scrubbing the earth’s atmosphere of excess carbon dioxide, and producing energy-efficient (either lime-plastered straw bale or insulated concrete form) homes. That would be simply wonderful.

CO2 Solution, if you’re reading this, for goodness sake, go show off your technology to the Virgin Earth Challenge!! I’ll buy your first bag of atmospherically-extracted lime plaster.

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