LANL scientists eye ways to capture, store atmospheric CO2

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LOS ALAMOS, N.M. – Scientists at Los Alamos National Lab are currently working on ways to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it underground, to potentially be converted into carbon-neutral fuel.

The U.S. Department of Energy has looked into and worked on developing this type of technology to make it a reality for 20 years when LANL pioneered the concept of capturing CO2 directly from the air. Scientists have been creating methods to store that CO2 safely underground.

"There are a number of different kind of reservoirs that you can put CO2 into and many of them exist in this area," said George Guthrie Jr., an earth and environmental scientist at LANL. "Some of them are known as saline reservoirs and they’re porous rocks underground that currently contain saltwater. You can remove that saltwater and replace it with CO2, which allows you to store the CO2 underground for long periods of time."

So far, the research has mainly looked at ways to separate the CO2 molecules from other molecules, like nitrogen.

"In the case of a power plant you have CO2 present in about 10 to 15%," Guthrie Jr. said. "In the case of the atmosphere, it’s present in much less than 1% and, in both of those cases, you have to remove CO2 from mixtures with other gasses to make this work."

You could also take that CO2 and combine it with hydrogen that you’d make from another source, like solar. This means you could produce a carbon-neutral liquid fuel that could be used in cars as a possibly cost-effective way to burn gas while also not emitting extra CO2 in the process.