Key Research Organization(s): University of British Columbia - BRIMM
Project Location: British Columbia
Strategic Focus Area: Minerals
This research is mapping the distribution and volume of ultramafic rocks in British Columbia and assessing their potential to capture and store the greenhouse gas (GHG) carbon dioxide (CO2) through a naturally ocurring chemical reaction that removes CO2 from the atmosphere and safely stabilizes it long-term in benign carbonate minerals.
The University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Bradshaw Research Initiative for Minerals and Mining (BRIMM) and MDRU-Mineral Deposit Research Unit are leading this series of related research projects.
Funding from Geoscience BC is being used to identify, map and analyze the rocks to create a ‘Carbon Mineralization Potential Index’ that will rank the carbon mineralization potential of ultramafic rocks throughout BC.
The British Columbia Geological Survey (BCGS) and Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) are also collaborating in this project. The BCGS provided funding for sampling as well as expertise and the GSC’s Paleomagnetism and Petrophysics Laboratory (Sidney BC) contributed rock property measurements. The research also has significant support from industry and the Natural Resource Canada’s Clean Growth Program. View Clean Growth Program announcement.
Project Update Webinar: Initial Results from Carbon Mineralization Potential for BC Project – November 2020
Geoscience BC hosted a webinar on November 3, 2020 to discuss initial results from this minerals research project assessing the potential for rocks in British Columbia to capture and store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). A final report and public data for the project are expected to be published in early 2021.
Both Canada and BC have challenging climate targets. In BC, the CleanBC plan identifies a need to put in place a regulatory framework for carbon capture and storage methods.
This project is building on a decade of ongoing research examining the natural reaction between magnesium-rich minerals in serpentinized ultramafic rock (serpentinite rocks) and atmospheric CO2, while finding ways to accelerate the reaction.
CO2 binds with the magnesium minerals in ultramafic rocks. These magnesium minerals are particularly abundant in serpentinite rocks. Serpentinite rocks can also host nickel deposits, so crushed serpentinite rock is found in mine tailings (waste rock) at some nickel mines.
Identifying the distribution, abundances, geometries and quality of these serpentinized ultramafic bodies in BC is the first step towards quantifying the opportunity to use them to reduce atmospheric CO2.
Carbon Mineralization Project Video – Credit: Dr. Greg Dipple
This Minerals project fits under our Strategic Objective of Advancing Science & Innovative Geoscience Technologies, and our goal to:
Increase research and development of innovative exploration and mining methods, tools, approaches and geoscience technologies.
The goal of the Carbon Mineralization Potential Assessment for BC project is to produce an inventory of ultramafic rock localities in BC that includes both their mineralization potential as well as abundance estimates.
Specifically, the project is:
Determining the mineralogical and physical characteristics of localities with high carbon mineralization potential throughout BC;
Determining the distribution of ultramafic rocks throughout BC using existing geophysical and geological data sets;
Establishing the 3D geometry of ultramafic bodies for key sites to indicate potential resource size, quality and potential extraction; and
Establishing a BC Carbon Mineralization Potential index by integrating the project results and other publicly available datasets.
The ability to capture and store atmospheric CO2 using this naturally occurring material could provide environmental and economic benefits.
This project could identify how companies mining ultramafic rocks could use what was previously considered as waste to capture CO2 from the mining operation, as well as potentially capturing additional CO2 from the atmosphere.
Graph of carbon capture from air with mine tailings (black line). Credit: UBC – BRIMM
Simulated mineralization of powerplant exhaust CO2 in laboratory experiments. Credit: Eric Wynands (UBC)
Example of mineralized atmospheric carbon in tailings at Clinton Creek Mine, Yukon. Credit: UBC – BRIMM
The following is a summary of the findings in the first of two reports for this project, published on November 3, 2020. A final report and data are expected in early 2021.
The researchers found that approximately 75% of the ultramafic rock bodies in BC are associated with large magnetic anomalies that suggest extensive serpentinization, and created geophysical models to estimate the volume of these rock bodies below the surface.
The volume of serpentinites in the upper kilometre of the crust is estimated to be more than 1,000 km3. The readily extractable magnesium content of these rocks is estimated to have a carbon sequestration capacity of more than 56 Gt of CO2, representing more than 800 years of GHG emissions for BC at current rates.
Geoscience BC Report 2020-15: The Carbon Mineralization Potential of Ultramafic Rocks in British Columbia: A Preliminary assessment (PDF, 85.6 MB) – Revised January 11, 2021