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HELLISHEIDI, Iceland (AP) -- Sometime next month, on the steaming fringes of an Icelandic volcano, an international team of scientists will begin pumping "seltzer water" into a deep hole, producing a brew that will lock away carbon dioxide forever.
The experimental transformation will take place below the dramatic landscape of this place 29 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. On an undulating, mossy moor and surrounding volcanic hills, where the last eruption occurred 2,000 years ago, Reykjavik Energy operates a huge, 5-year-old geothermal power plant, drawing on 30 wells tapping into the superheated steam below, steam laden with carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide.
Water, carbonated with CO2 pulled from superheated steam ejected from deep in the Earth, will be injected into basalt rock, converting it into harmless limestone.
CarbFix will first separate out those two gases, and the CO2 will be piped 3 kilometers (2 miles) to the injection well, to combine with water pumped from elsewhere.
That carbonated water - seltzer - will be injected down the well, where the pressure of the pumped water, by a depth of 500 meters (1,600 feet), will completely dissolve the CO2 bubbles, forming carbonic acid.
"The acid's very corrosive, so it starts to attack the rocks," explained University of Iceland geologist Sigurdur Reynir Gislason, CarbFix's chief scientist.
The basalt rock - ancient lava flows - is porous, up to 30 percent open space filled with water. The carbonic acid will be pushed out into those pores, and over time will react with the basalt's calcium to form calcium carbonate, or limestone.
The team's greatest concern is that carbon "mineralization" may happen too quickly.
"If it reacts too fast, then that will clog up the system," Sigfusson explained. Quick formation of calcium carbonate would block too many paths through the basalt for the solution to spread.