Omani rock could save the planet

Peridotite, a type of rock found in abundance in Oman, can suck greenhouse gases from the air.

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By  Timothy Gardner & Rob Corder Published  November 7, 2008

A rock found mostly in Oman can be harnessed to soak up the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide at a rate that could help slow global warming, scientists say.

When carbon dioxide comes in contact with the rock, peridotite, the gas is converted into solid minerals such as calcite.

Geologist Peter Kelemen and geochemist Juerg Matter said the naturally occurring process can be supercharged 1 million times to grow underground minerals that can permanently store 2 billion or more of the 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted by human activity every year.

Peridotite is the most common rock found in the Earth's mantle, or the layer directly below the crust.

It also appears on the surface, particularly in Oman, which is conveniently close to the energy-intensive extraction and refining of fossil fuels elsewhere in the Middle East.

"To be near all that oil and gas infrastructure is not a bad thing," Matter said in an interview.

They also calculated the costs of mining the rock and bringing it directly to greenhouse gas emitting power plants, but determined it was too expensive.

The scientists say 4 billion to 5 billion tons a year of the gas could be stored near Oman by using peridotite in parallel with another emerging technique developed by Columbia's Klaus Lackner that uses synthetic "trees" which suck carbon dioxide out of the air.

More research needs to be done before either technology could be used on a commercial scale. (Reuters)

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