Published:
Last updated:
May 24, 2024

Enhanced Weathering

What is Enhanced Weathering?

Enhanced weathering is a cutting-edge method of carbon capture and storage using natural geological processes to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. This method involves the distribution of finely ground silicate rocks, such as basalt or olivine, over large areas of land, where they chemically react with CO2 in the presence of water to form stable carbonate minerals. This process not only permanently sequesters atmospheric CO2 but also delivers the added benefit of releasing nutrients into the soil, potentially enhancing agricultural productivity.

The Science Behind Enhanced Weathering

The principle behind enhanced weathering is based on the Earth's natural rock weathering process – a slow, ongoing geological cycle that has regulated the planet's climate for millions of years. By accelerating this process, enhanced weathering aims to increase the rate at which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere. When silicate rocks are exposed to CO2 and water, they undergo a series of chemical reactions that ultimately convert CO2 into bicarbonate ions, which are then washed into the oceans and precipitate as carbonate minerals, locking away the carbon for millennia.

Types of Enhanced Weathering Projects

Enhanced weathering projects can differ based on the mineral used, application area, and targeted outcomes. Key types include:

  • Basalt Powder Application: Spreading finely ground basalt rock on agricultural lands to enhance weathering rates, sequester CO2, and improve soil quality. The most notable example of this is UNDO.
  • Olivine Beach Projects: Adding olivine grains to beaches where wave action speeds up weathering processes, increasing CO2 sequestration and potentially combating ocean acidification at the same time.
  • Agricultural Enhanced Weathering: Integrating silicate rocks into farmland soils not only for carbon sequestration but also to release nutrients beneficial for crops.
  • Urban Enhanced Weathering: Using silicate materials in urban construction, such as roads and buildings, to passively capture CO2 over time through weathering.

The Role in Achieving Net Zero Emissions

For companies embarking on a net zero journey, enhanced weathering provides a novel and effective tool to complement other carbon reduction and removal strategies. While it is still an emerging technology requiring further research and scaling, its potential for significant carbon dioxide removal makes it an attractive option for forward-thinking businesses. Integrating enhanced weathering into a broader portfolio of carbon removal projects can help businesses to neutralise their emissions and meet net zero targets.

Project portfolio mix

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