Why the Swiss are shipping CO 2 to Iceland

Yesterday, Swiss President Alain Berset toured the Carbfix plant in Iceland and visited the facilities where the pilot project "DemoUpCARMA" is implemented. The project aims at injecting and storing CO2 in the Icelandic underground. Marco Mazzotti, project coordinator and ETH Zurich professor, explains why Swiss CO2 is being shipped all the way to Iceland.

Why is the project being carried out in Iceland?
Iceland was selected for two reasons: It was the only country where a CO2 storage site was available and ready to receive "foreign" CO2. Other CO2 storage operations are being carried out but mostly with a national or company scope. Furthermore, Carbfix utilises a unique technology, whereby CO2 dissolved in water is quickly mineralised after injection through a reaction with the basalt formation. As part of this Swiss-Icelandic cooperation, Carbfix will further pioneer a novel injection process, which uses seawater instead of freshwater. Finally, an array of advanced monitoring techniques that will be operated by Swiss scientists, such as the Swiss Seismological Service at ETH Zurich, will be implemented. This adds substantial value for the scientific components of the project.

Could CO2 also be stored in this way in Switzerland or in other areas of continental Europe?
The Swiss partners of DemoUpCARMA are indeed exploring this possibility, although the Swiss geology does not seem to have favourable properties for CO2 storage via mineralization. However, it is too early to draw definite conclusions.

How much CO2 will it be possible to store in Iceland?
Iceland’s CO2 storage capacity is huge: experts talk about several gigatonnes of CO2. However, researchers still need a better understanding of how much of this capacity can be ultimately exploited. DemoUpCARMA and the injection of CO2 using seawater is an important achievement in the direction of being able to exploit this capacity.

Isn’t that a drop in the ocean?
DemoUpCARMA is indeed a drop in the ocean, but you must start somewhere when a new technology targeting large-scale deployment. Of course, many other measures will also need to be implemented to address the climate crisis; CCS alone cannot solve the problem.
Peter Rüegg