A team led by Rio Tinto has been awarded $2.2 million in funding from the Department of Energy to explore the potential for carbon storage at the company's central Minnesota nickel joint venture, the company said Feb. 14.
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Rio Tinto, which will contribute $4 million in funding for the three-year project, said the team will investigate new approaches in carbon mineralization technology to "safely and permanently store carbon as rock."
Carbon mineralization uses natural chemical reactions to convert captured carbon dioxide into rock and store it underground, with the potential to be an important technology in meeting global climate goals, Rio Tinto said. The technology is currently being used at a large scale by Carbfix in Iceland, it added.
"Our aim is to deliver carbon storage solutions that can help to meet climate targets by reducing and offsetting emissions from our operations and in other industries, and to explore the emerging commercial opportunities carbon storage may offer at Rio Tinto sites around the world," Rio Tinto chief scientist Nigel Steward said in a statement.
Along with Rio Tinto technical experts, the research, focused on the Tamarack joint venture in Minnestoa, will be done in partnership with the DOE's Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Columbia University, Carbfix and Advantek Waste Management Services, the company said.
"This project will bring together leading industrial players, academics and experts demonstrating the international partnerships needed for accelerated climate action," Carbfix CEO Edda Aradottir said, noting his company has more and a decade of experience injecting and storing CO2 from emission sources as well as the atmosphere with its technology.
Tamarack nickel project
The Tamarack nickel, copper and cobalt project, currently progressing toward feasibility studies, is managed by Rio Tinto's join venture partner Talon Metals, which will provide ore body knowledge and land access for field work, Rio Tinto said. Talon Metals holds a 51% share in the venture and has the right to earn-in to acquire up to 60%.
Unlike existing large-scale carbon mineralization projects that have focused on areas with rock formations known as basaltic lava geology, such as Carbfix's site in Iceland, the Tamarack project includes a large bowl of what is known as porous ultramafic rock, Rio Tinto noted. While this bowl sits outside the resource of nickel and other battery minerals, Rio Tinto said it has the potential to "safely store hundreds of millions of tons of carbon in solid form through natural reactions."
The project will include laboratory studies and field work to confirm the carbon storage potential of the site, understand the area's hydrology and assess different carbon mineralization technologies, according to the company. As part of this work, the team will develop a roadmap by 2025 to guide decisions on implementation.
The funding from the DOE comes from the organization's ARPA-E Innovation Challenge, which funds energy technologies that are typically too early for private-sector investment.