Integrated Research Studies - CO2 Sequestration Using Ultramafic and Carbonate Rocks
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A prudent strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants will require a portfolio approach defined by a range of carbon management and sequestration options. Mineral sequestration, also known as mineral carbonation (MC), is one approach among a number of emerging carbon capture methods that requires research and development before it can be deployed.
MC involves converting gaseous CO2 to a geologically-stable solid by combining CO2 with MgO or CaO to form mineral carbonates like magnesite or calcite. Host rocks for suitable Mg-oxide bearing minerals are ultramafic rocks, which include olivine and serpentine but can also contain asbestos minerals, a known human health carcinogen. However, asbestos tailings, produced as part of mining ultramafic rocks, are potential source material for MC. The MC process destroys the remnant chrysotile in asbestos mine waste pile thereby serving as a remediation strategy while simultaneously sequestering CO2.
The mineral carbonates produced as part of the MC process are stable over geologic time periods (millions of years) providing a route for permanent and safe storage of carbon dioxide.
One of the assessment issues to address the viability of sequestering CO2 in mineral form includes estimating the silicate and carbonate reserves that can be exploited. Regional scale maps are an initial step toward that estimation.
Objectives are twofold:
- Evaluate mineral carbonation as a potential growth area for Minerals Resources Program scientists by interacting with lead researchers in the mineral carbonation field.
- Oversee compilation of a national-scale ultramafic map being compiled by graduate students at the Earth Institute at Columbia University as part of their PhD research. The ultramafic coverage will be of substantial benefit to the USGS Updated National Mineral Resource Assessment as ultramafic rocks define a permissive tract for Cr, Ni, and Platinum Group commodities. Concurrently, oversight of the coverage compilation will allow an opportunity for the USGS to interact with lead reaserchers in the field of mineral carbonation and contribute to an emerging area of research.
Please visit the mineral CO2 sequestration project website for a more complete description of our research and products.
Reports and Articles
Krevor, S.C., Graves, C.R., Van Gosen, B.S., and McCafferty, A.E., 2009, Delineation of magnesium-rich ultramafic rocks available for mineral carbon sequestration in the United States: Energy Procedia, v. 1, Issue 1, February 2009, p. 4915-4920, doi:10.1016/j.egypro.2009.02.322.
Langer W.H., San Juan, C.A., Rau, G.H., and Caldeira, Ken, 2009, Accelerated weathering of limestone for CO2 mitigation: Opportunities for the stone and cement industries: Mining Engineering, 61(2), p. 27-32.
McCafferty, A.E. and Van Gosen, B.S., 2009, Airborne gamma-ray and magnetic anomaly signatures of serpentinite in relation to soil geochemistry, Northern California: Applied Geochemistry, 24 (8), p. 1524-1537, doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2009.04.007.
McCafferty, A.E., Horton, R.J., Stanton, M.R., McDougal, R.R., and Fey, D.L., 2011, Geophysical, geochemical, mineralogical, and environmental data for rock samples collected in a mineralized volcanic environment, Upper Animas Watershed, Colorado: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 595, 13 p.
McCafferty, A.E., Van Gosen, B.S., Krevor, S.C., and Graves, C.R., 2009, Geophysical delineation of Mg-rich ultramafic rocks for mineral carbon sequestration: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1127, 24 p.
Krevor, S.C., Graves, C.R., Van Gosen, B.S., and McCafferty, A.E., 2009, Mapping the mineral resource base for mineral carbon-dioxide sequestration in the conterminous United States: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 414, 14 p., 1 plate.
Geologists Map Rocks to Soak CO2 From Air
- 2009-2010 Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Henry Krumb Lecturer (McCafferty)
- Interview with CNN Radio on mineral CO2 sequestration (McCafferty)
Krevor, S., Graves, C., Lackner, K., McCafferty, A.E., and Van Gosen, B.S., 2008, Delineation of magnesium-rich ultramafic rocks available for mineral carbon sequestration in the United States, in, Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Control Technology (GHGT-9), 16-20 November 2008, Washington DC, USA: Energy Procedia, 1 (1), pp. 4915-4920. doi:10.1016/j.egypro.2009.02.322.
Krevor, S., Graves, C., McCafferty, A., and Van Gosen, B., 2009, Delineation of magnesium-rich ultramafic rocks available for mineral carbon sequestration in the United States: 2009 Society of Mining Metallurgy and Exploration Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, p. 189-190.
Krevor, S., Graves, C., Van Gosen, B.S., and McCafferty, A.E., 2008, Mapping the mineral resource base for mineral carbon sequestration in the United States: Italian Ministry of the Environment Second International Conference on Accelerated Carbonation for Environmental and Material Engineering, Rome, Italy.
Langer, W.H., San Juan, C.A., Rau, G.H., and Caldeira, K., 2009, Accelerated weathering of limestone for CO2 mitigation—Opportunities for the crushed stone and cement industries: Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME) 2009 Annual Meeting, Preprint No. 09-045, 6 p.
McCafferty, A.E., 2010, Airborne geophysical data to characterize minerals and metals related to potential human health issues: EOS Trans. AGU, 91(26), Meet. Am. Suppl., Abstract GP34A-04. (Invited)
McCafferty, A.E., 2008, Airborne geophysical data to characterize minerals related to human health and environmental issues: 44th Brazilian Geological Congress, Curitiba, Brazil. (Invited)
McCafferty, A.E., and Van Gosen, B., 2008, Airborne Geophysical Expression of Serpentinites Related to Radioelements and Heavy Metals, North-Central California: Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists.
McCafferty, A.E., and Van Gosen, B.S., Krevor, S., and Graves, C., 2009, Geophysical delineation of magnesium-rich ultramafic rocks for mineral carbon sequestration in the United States: 2009 Society of Mining Metallurgy and Exploration Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, p. 190.
USGS Project Website:
Box 25046 MS 964 Denver Federal Center
Denver, CO 80225-0046
Email: Anne McCafferty