Carbon dioxide sequestering using uitramaf IC rocks

Fraser Goff, K. S. Lackner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

171 Scopus citations


Fossil fuels continue to provide major sources of energy to the modern world even though global emissions of CO2 are presently at levels of >19 gigatons/yr. Future antipollution measures may include sequestering of waste CO2 as magnesite (MgCO3) by processing ultramafic rocks. Common ultramafic rocks react easily with HC1 to form MgCl2 which is hydrolyzed to form Mg(OH)2. CO2 would be transported by pipeline from a fossil fuel power plant to a sequestering site and then reacted with Mg(0H)2 to produce thermodynamically stable magnesite. Huge ultramafic deposits consisting of relatively pure Mg-rich silicates exist throughout much of the world in ophiolites and, to a lesser extent, in layered intrusions. Peridotites and associated serpentinite are found in discontinuous ophiolite belts along both continental margins of North America. Serpentinites and dunites comprise the best ores because they contain the most Mg by weight (35 to 49 wt-% MgO) and are relatively reactive to hot acids such as HC1. Small ultramafic bodies (~1 km3) can potentially sequester ~1 gigatons of CO2 or ~20% of annual U.S. emissions. A single large deposit of dunite (~30 km3) could dispose of nearly 20 years of current U.S. CO2 emissions. The sequestering process could provide Mg, Si, Fe, Cr, Ni, and Mn as by products for other industrial and strategic uses. Because "white" asbestos (chyrsotile) is a serpentine mineral, CO2 sequestering could dispose of some waste asbestos. The cost and . environmental impact of exploiting ultramafic deposits must be weighed against the increased costs of energy and benefits to the atmosphere and climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-102
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Geosciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon dioxide
  • Environmental geology
  • Geochemistry
  • Global warming
  • Mining
  • Ultramafic rocks
  • Waste disposal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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