Potential and costs of carbon dioxide removal by enhanced weathering of rocks
Jessica Strefler, Thorben Amann, Nico Bauer, Elmar Kriegler and Jens Hartmann
The chemical weathering of rocks currently absorbs about 1.1 Gt CO2 a−1 being mainly stored as bicarbonate in the ocean. An enhancement of this slow natural process could remove substantial amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere, aiming to offset some unavoidable anthropogenic emissions in order to comply with the Paris Agreement, while at the same time it may decrease ocean acidification. We provide the first comprehensive assessment of economic costs, energy requirements, technical parameterization, and global and regional carbon removal potential. The crucial parameters defining this potential are the grain size and weathering rates. The main uncertainties about the potential relate to weathering rates and rock mass that can be integrated into the soil. The discussed results do not specifically address the enhancement of weathering through microbial processes, feedback of geogenic nutrient release, and bioturbation. We do not only assess dunite rock, predominantly bearing olivine (in the form of forsterite) as the mineral that has been previously proposed to be best suited for carbon removal, but focus also on basaltic rock to minimize potential negative side effects. Our results show that enhanced weathering is an option for carbon dioxide removal that could be competitive already at 60 US $ t−1 CO2 removed for dunite, but only at 200 US $ t−1 CO2 removed for basalt. The potential carbon removal on cropland areas could be as large as 95 Gt CO2 a−1 for dunite and 4.9 Gt CO2 a−1 for basalt. The best suited locations are warm and humid areas, particularly in India, Brazil, South-East Asia and China, where almost 75% of the global potential can be realized. This work presents a techno-economic assessment framework, which also allows for the incorporation of further processes.