In this class we discuss carbon sequestration as a means to mitigate climate change. The method promoted is carbon mineralization.
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The two-part course is based on two presentations, divided topically into 14 videos. The first section features a Nevada Conservation League podcast, interviewing Dr. John Hoaglund. The climate change issue, other industrial sources of carbon and how to mitigate it with carbon sequestration is discussed. The second section is an expanded version of a presentation Dr. Hoaglund delivered to the National Groundwater Association (NGWA), and details the “CNWE environmental trifecta” (see below).
Unlike the temporary biotic carbon sequestration used for “carbon offsets” (growing wetlands and forests in exchange for the “right to pollute”, i.e. emit carbon), carbon mineralization is the Earth’s permanent sink for carbon onto the seafloor. There is an energy penalty associated with all carbon sequestration methods, but by combining it with brine desalination with the processes described here, the energy invested also 1) produces freshwater, 2) produces commodities such as hydrogen gas, an energy carrier that will soon replace lithium, 3) eliminates brine disposal, 4) eliminates carbon emissions, and 5) reduces salination of groundwater by producing a bicarbonate de-icing salt to replace chloride salts.
A technical description of the three components of the “CNWE environmental trifecta” is as follows:
- Greenhouse gas (GHG) is reduced through the sequestration of carbon, achieved from flue stack capture (FSC), or direct air capture (DAC), of CO2, subsequently incorporated into solid carbonate mineral [MCO3 or MHCO3], or into increased naturally dissolved bicarbonate (HCO3) in groundwater, surface water, and oceans. Dissolved HCO3 can be incorporated into algae for biofuel, fertilizer, or feedstock production. The need for brine waste disposal is eliminated from both seawater and groundwater brine desalination operations. The most common technology for this step usually involves 1) the electrolysis of brine, producing a base MOH, and 2) the aeration of CO2 gas forming carbonic acid, which reacts with the base to produce a carbonate salt [MCO3 or MHCO3].
- Freshwater is produced from the desalination of brine, and is managed through the prevention of salinization from brine handling and road salting, as well as the treatment of the acidification of groundwater and surface waters resulting from acid precipitation and acid mine drainage. MHCO3, replacing MCl in road salting and fertilizer operations, provides “non-point” source application of the bicarbonate for the neutralization of acid precipitation. The elimination of MCl salts prevents the chloride salinization of groundwater and surface waters. MHCO3 can also be applied locally, providing “point” source application for the neutralization of acid mine drainage point sources.
- Clean energy is promoted through the production of energy carriers: lithium extracted from brines, and hydrogen produced from the electrolysis of brine. Other marketable byproducts are produced from the electrolysis process described above, which has existed for over a hundred years, and is already the standard means for the production of these compounds industrially. The marketable byproducts are NaHCO3 and various HxClx compounds, including H2, Cl2, HCl, and ClOx. The H2 can supplement the hydrogen economy. The Cl2 and ClOx compounds can be used in water sanitation. The HCl can be used in various waste digestion (dissolution) practices, particularly organic matter from agriculture (e.g. offal). HCl applied to native metals produces that metal’s chloride plus hydrogen gas.
[Throughout the discussion above, M is most commonly sodium, Na, when referring to univalent cations, and Ca or Mg when referring to divalent cations]