Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is wreaking havoc on environmental safety and leading to climate change, and Professor of Environmental Science Martin Stute has been on the front lines of research offering a solution to this enormous problem. To aid in his research, Stute, who has a joint appointment with the Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, was awarded  a U.S. Department of Energy grant through the CarbonSAFE program.

The grant supports a feasibility study of permanently storing large quantities of CO2 from power plants below the ocean floor in rocks called basalts in offshore Washington State and British Columbia. This study builds upon the work that Stute and a team of geoscientists have been conducting in Iceland to capture carbon dioxide gases before they enter the atmosphere, rendering them harmless, by transforming them into stone through reactions with basalt.

“The ultimate goal of the CarbonSAFE study is the demonstration that safe disposal of COoffshore is possible,” says Stute. “By putting away COfor good in this way, we could reduce atmospheric CO2 emissions that are responsible for climate change.” Disposal in this formation has several advantages, as carbon dioxide is rapidly converted to a mineral and cannot be returned to the atmosphere. Even if some carbon dioxide were to leak before the conversion, this leak would occur into the deep ocean far away from human populations, minimizing the risk of potential ecological damage. Basalts are very common on Earth, and this technology would be easy to transfer.

Stute’s previous research, featured in Barnard Magazine, took place in Iceland and involved several Barnard students. This phase will take place in the Cascadia Basin in offshore Washington State and British Columbia.  

Watch Stute's presentation, “Turning CO2 into Stone,” to learn more about how this groundbreaking technology works.

Stute is one of the Principal Investigators, and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory will lead the project in close collaboration with other departments at Columbia University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.

“Professor Stute’s research has enormous ramifications for our ability to understand and withstand climate change on a large scale,” said Associate Provost Patricia Denison. “This new grant is critical because it ensures that Stute can continue his groundbreaking research.”

Stute serves as co-Chair of Barnard's Department of Environmental Science and is Adjunct Senior Research Scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and a member of the faculty of Columbia's Department of Earth and Environmental Science. He is also a core member of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy.

Stute is collaborating with D. Goldberg, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University; M. Gerrard, Columbia University School of Law; A.-H. A. Park, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Columbia University; and A. Bonneville, M. White, I. Demirkanli, L. Aston, G. Hund, and C. Brown of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.