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Rio Tinto to host world’s first carbon mineral storage hub near Iceland smelter

ISAL aluminium smelter in Iceland. (Image courtesy of Rio Tinto).

Rio Tinto (LSE: RIO) announced a collaboration deal with Carbfix, an academic-industrial partnership that developed a novel approach to capturing and storing CO2.

According to the memorandum of understanding signed between the parties, Carbfix will use Rio Tinto’s land surrounding the ISAL smelter in Iceland for onshore CO2 injection in the world’s first carbon mineral storage hub, the Coda Terminal. Liquified CO2 will be captured from European industrial plants’ emissions and transported to Iceland by specifically designed ships operating on sustainable fuel. 

The plan is to drill the first injection wells for the Coda Terminal in 2022, with shipments of CO2 starting in 2025. 

In a media statement, the companies said that the Carbfix process involves dissolving CO2 in water and injecting it deep into basaltic formations where the injected carbon dioxide is rapidly turned into stone or solid carbonate minerals. This is achieved by accelerating natural processes. 

Rio Tinto to host world’s first carbon mineral storage hub near ISAL smelter
(Graph courtesy of Carbfix).

The only inputs needed are water, electricity and favourable bedrock such as the basalts surrounding the ISAL site in Straumsvík.

The way it works is one in which carbonated water produced reacts with rocks underground and releases available cations such as calcium, magnesium and iron into the water stream. Over time, these elements combine with the dissolved CO2 and form carbonates filling up the empty space (pores) within the rocks. The carbonates are stable for thousands of years and can thus be considered permanently stored.

“The innovative technology developed by Carbfix provides a pathway towards further decarbonisation of aluminium production at our ISAL smelter, which already produces low carbon aluminium using renewable energy,” Rio Tinto aluminium chief executive, Ivan Vella, said in the press brief.

“We will be working together to tackle the technical challenges to progress the carbon capture solution that we have begun trialling at ISAL. Beyond this, we will look for opportunities to apply Carbfix’s technology for decarbonisation across Rio Tinto’s operations.”

This announcement took place less than a week after it was made public that Rio and Talon Metals’ (TSX: TLO) Tamarack nickel project in central Minnesota may soon host a machine created by American company CarbonCapture, which removes carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere.