Key Research Organization(s): University of British Columbia - BRIMM
Project Location: British Columbia
Strategic Focus Area: Minerals
This research is assessing the distribution and potential of ultramafic rocks in British Columbia to capture and store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and safely stabilize it long-term as carbonate minerals. A series of related research projects are being led by the University of British Columbia (UBC) - Bradshaw Research Initiative for Minerals and Mining (BRIMM) and Mineral Deposit Research Unit (MDRU):
Funding from Geoscience BC is being used to identify, map and analyse the rocks to create a ‘Carbon Mineralization Potential Index’ that will rank the carbon mineralization potential of rocks throughout British Columbia.
The British Columbia Geological Survey (BCGS) and Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) are also partners in this project. The BCGS is providing funding for sampling as well as the expertise of Senior Minerals Geologist Dejan Milidragovic. Rock property measurements will be made at the GSC Paleomagnetism and Petrophysics Laboratory in Sidney.
The research also has significant support from industry and from Natural Resource Canada’s Clean Growth Program.
View Clean Growth Program announcement
This project is building on a decade of research that focuses on the reaction of ultramafic rocks (magnesium silicate that is often found in mine tailings) with CO2, and on finding ways to maximize the reaction. Known as ‘carbon mineralization’, the reaction binds the CO2 in a solid carbonate mineral form, where it can remain in a benign state for thousands of years or more.
This presents a potential opportunity to capture, or ‘sequester’, CO2 from the atmosphere or from industrial emissions, helping to meet corporate and government environmental commitments. Identifying the distribution, abundances, geometries and quality of these ultramafic bodies is the first step towards quantifying the opportunity.
Carbon Mineralization Project Video – Credit: Dr. Greg Dipple
The project will:
Determine the mineralogical and physical characteristics of localities with high carbonate mineralization potential throughout BC;
Determine the distribution of ultramafic rocks throughout BC using existing geophysical and geological data sets;
Establish the 3D geometry of ultramafic bodies for two or more key sites to indicate potential resource size, quality and potential extraction; and
Establish a BC Carbon Mineralization Potential index through the integration of the project results and other publicly available datasets.
The ability to capture and store atmospheric CO2 in this widely available and naturally occurring material could provide both environmental and economic benefits.
This project could identify how companies mining ultramafic ores could use rock previously considered as waste to capture CO2, as well as potentially capturing 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