Carbon Mineralization Offsets Explained: All You Need to Know

Carbon Mineralization Offsets Explained: All You Need to Know

By
Grace Smoot

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The potential for carbon mineralization is greater than the burning of all fossil fuel carbon on Earth, making it potentially crucial in the fight against climate change. Partnered with carbon offsets, carbon mineralization could have a greater impact. So, we had to ask: What are carbon mineralization offsets really, and could they help us mitigate climate change?

Carbon mineralization offsets are a specific type of carbon offset where CO2 reacts with certain rocks to become a solid mineral. They are permanent and reduce CO2 emissions quickly with low rates of re-emission; however, they are expensive and not yet scaled to compensate for our global emissions.

Keep reading to find out all about what carbon mineralization offsets are, how they work, how effective and efficient they are, what their pros and cons are, and what the best ones are. At the end of the article, we’ll also share with you how carbon mineralization offsets can help mitigate climate change and what better alternatives to them are.

The Big Picture of Carbon Mineralization Offsets

Carbon offsets are reductions in carbon emissions that are used to compensate for carbon emissions occurring elsewhere. They are measured in tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents and are bought and sold through international brokers, online retailers, and trading platforms on what is known as the global carbon offset market. 

Carbon Offset: a way for a company or person to reduce the level of carbon dioxide for which they are responsible by paying money to a company that works to reduce the total amount produced in the world, for example by reforestation”

Oxford Dictionary

Carbon mineralization is a form of technological carbon removal whereby atmospheric CO2 reacts with silicate material and rocks rich in calcium and magnesium (e.g., basalt rocks) to permanently lock away CO2 for thousands of years.

Carbon mineralization: the process by which carbon dioxide becomes a solid mineral, such as a carbonate. It is a chemical reaction that happens when certain rocks are exposed to carbon dioxide”

The United States Geological Survey 

For underground mineralization, CO2 is injected into wells that lead to igneous or metamorphic rock formations. For mineralization at the surface, CO2 is exposed to basalt rocks, ultramafic rocks, or mine tailings (mine waste).

What are carbon mineralization offsetsCarbon mineralization offsets are a specific type of carbon offset involving approaches that speed up the natural weathering process, whereby atmospheric CO2 reacts with silicate material and rocks rich in calcium and magnesium (e.g., basalt rocks).
How do carbon mineralization offsets workCarbon mineralization projects reduce CO2 emissions by supporting those mineralization practices that permanently lock away atmospheric carbon in rock formations for thousands of years.
How effective and efficient are carbon mineralization offsetsEffectiveness: Carbon mineralization offsets permanently and quickly remove CO2 from the atmosphere; however, they do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashing.

Efficiency: Carbon mineralization offsets have low rates of carbon re-emission; however, they are also relatively expensive and are not yet scaled to compensate for our global emissions.
What are the 5 pros of carbon mineralization offsets1. Carbon mineralization offsets are permanent
2. Carbon mineralization offsets have a low rate of carbon re-emission
3. Carbon mineralization offsets reduce CO2 emissions quickly
4. Carbon mineralization offsets protect the biosphere
5. Carbon mineralization offsets can help offset carbon emissions that can’t be reduced otherwise
What are the 4 cons of carbon mineralization offsets1. Carbon mineralization offsets are one of the most expensive methods of carbon removal
2. Carbon mineralization offsets are not yet at a scale where they can compensate for our global carbon emissions
3. Carbon mineralization offsets may have negative environmental effects
4. Carbon mineralization offsets do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashing
What are the best carbon mineralization offsetsThe best carbon mineralization offsets are offered by Climeworks, Neustark, and greenSand which permanently store CO2 underground, in concrete, or in Olivine rocks, respectively. In addition, CarbonCure, CarbonBuilt, and Silicate lock away CO2 in concrete. 
How can carbon mineralization offsets help mitigate climate changeCarbon mineralization can specifically help mitigate climate change because it eliminates atmospheric carbon, which when emitted, can remain in our atmosphere for a long period of time. Whether via underground injection, concrete, or mine tailings, the process of carbon mineralization permanently locks away CO2 for thousands of years.

What Are Carbon Mineralization Offsets

Carbon mineralization is a form of technological carbon removal, the process of eliminating carbon from the atmosphere. More specifically, it is the removal of carbon from the atmosphere by sequestering it in permanent reservoirs.

Carbon Removal: the process of removing CO2 from the atmosphere”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Carbon mineralization, also referred to as enhanced weathering, refers to the process by which atmospheric CO2 reacts with silicate material and rocks rich in calcium and magnesium (e.g., basalt rocks).

Carbon mineralization: the process by which carbon dioxide becomes a solid mineral, such as a carbonate. It is a chemical reaction that happens when certain rocks are exposed to carbon dioxide”

The United States Geological Survey 

There are two main types of carbon mineralization:

  • Injecting CO2 into underground rock formations
  • Exposing CO2 to broken pieces of rock at the Earth’s surface

Underground, CO2 is injected into wells that lead to igneous or metamorphic rock formations. At the surface, CO2 is exposed to basalt rocks, ultramafic rocks, or mine tailings (mine waste). Both approaches permanently lock away atmospheric carbon for thousands of years.

How Do Carbon Mineralization Offsets Work

Carbon mineralization includes approaches that aim to speed up the naturally occurring weathering process whereby atmospheric CO2 chemically reacts with certain types of rocks to form a solid mineral. 

When certain rocks (e.g., basalt, ultramafic, mine tailings) are exposed to CO2, it triggers a chemical reaction that forms new carbonate material in the rocks. This locks away CO2 permanently with a limited possibility of re-emission, even if the rocks are broken.

Related: Are you interested in learning more about the big picture of carbon mineralization offsets? Check out the full article here: “What Are Carbon Mineralization Offsets and How Do They Work? The Big Picture

How Effective and Efficient Are Carbon Mineralization Offsets

In terms of effectiveness, carbon mineralization offsets permanently and quickly remove CO2 from the atmosphere; however, they do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashing.

In terms of efficiency, carbon mineralization offsets have low rates of carbon re-emission; however, they are also relatively expensive and are not yet scaled to compensate for our global emissions.

Carbon mineralization offsets are effective at mitigating climate change because they:

However, carbon mineralization offsets can also lack effectiveness because they do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashing. This occurs when emissions are only offset and not reduced from the source, and the consumer is deceived into thinking they are offsetting their emissions but in reality, they are not.

Carbon mineralization offsets are efficient at reducing CO2 emissions because they are a permanent process that has very low rates of CO2 re-emission. In addition, even if the rocks are broken, the carbon will remain trapped inside. 

However, carbon mineralization offsets can also lack efficiency because they are one of the most expensive offsets out of all of the carbon removal methods, behind direct carbon capture (DCC). They are also not yet scaled to compensate for our global carbon emissions, although they could be scaled up to capture 2-4 billion tons of CO2 per year by 2050.

Related: Are you interested in learning more about how effective and efficient carbon mineralization offsets are? Check out the full article here: “How Effective and Efficient Are Carbon Mineralization Offsets? Here Are the Facts

What Are The 5 Pros and 4 Cons of Carbon Mineralization Offsets

Carbon mineralization offsets are permanent, have a low rate of carbon re-emission, reduce emissions quickly, protect the biosphere, and can help offset emissions that cannot be reduced otherwise. 

Carbon mineralization offsets are one of the most expensive methods of carbon removal, are not yet scaled to compensate for our global emissions, may induce seismic activity, and do not reduce your own emissions, which can lead to greenwashing.

Related: Are you interested in learning more about the pros and cons of carbon mineralization offsets? Check out the full article here: “Carbon Mineralization Offsets: All 5 Pros and 4 Cons Explained

What Are the 5 Pros of Carbon Mineralization Offsets

Carbon mineralization offsets have various pros that make them effective at sequestering carbon from our atmosphere.

5 Pros of Carbon Mineralization OffsetsQuick Facts
#1: Carbon mineralization offsets are permanentCarbon mineralization offsets are a specific type of carbon offset that store carbon permanently in geological reservoirs. For example, Carbfix turns captured CO2 into stone, a process that locks away CO2 for thousands of years with no long-term monitoring required.
#2: Carbon mineralization offsets have a low rate of carbon re-emissionBecause carbon mineralization is a permanent process, rates of carbon re-emission are very low. For example, greenSand Olivine rocks permanently store carbon and will only release that carbon back into the atmosphere if the temperature exceeds 1,600 degrees. 
#3: Carbon mineralization offsets reduce CO2 emissions quicklyEnhanced weathering speeds up the natural carbon mineralization process by breaking down silicate rocks into tiny pieces, thereby skipping slow weathering processes. For example, Carbfix achieves 95% permanent carbon mineralization in under two years
#4: Carbon mineralization offsets protect the biosphereRemoving carbon emissions from the atmosphere via carbon mineralization would lead to improved public health in terms of asthma, respiratory allergies, airway diseases, and lung cancer. It also promotes healthy ecosystems, which have been linked with cleaner air, water, and food
#5: Carbon mineralization offsets can help offset carbon emissions that can’t be reduced otherwiseWe already have governmental-level policies in place to reduce carbon emissions, but carbon mineralization offsets allow us to reduce emissions from activities where sustainable alternatives are not yet widely available. 

What Are the 4 Cons of Carbon Mineralization Offsets

Understanding the drawbacks of carbon mineralization offsets is important when implementing this strategy on a large scale in order to mitigate climate change.

4 Cons of Carbon Mineralization OffsetsQuick Facts
#1: Carbon mineralization offsets are one of the most expensive methods of carbon removalMineralization offsets currently range anywhere from $82$1,200 per ton of CO2, depending on the type of technology, type of energy source, and scale of the operation. In comparison, reforestation offsets cost approximately $50 per ton
#2: Carbon mineralization offsets are not yet at a scale where they can compensate for our global carbon emissionsBecause there are relatively few companies engaged in carbon mineralization on a commercial level, the amount of carbon they can sequester is limited. Also, processes, standards, and technologies still need to be developed to ensure proper monitoring, verification, and reporting of carbon sequestration.
#3: Carbon mineralization offsets may have negative environmental effectsWater contamination and seismic activity are potential risks associated with carbon mineralization, although further research is needed.
#4: Carbon mineralization offsets do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashingIf emissions are only offset and not reduced from the source, this could lead to greenwashing, when the consumer is deceived into thinking they are offsetting their emissions but in reality, they are not.

How Could You Offset Your Own Carbon Footprint With Carbon Mineralization Offsets

The market for carbon offsets was small in the year 2000, but by 2010 it had already grown to represent nearly $10 billion worldwide. The voluntary carbon offset market (VCM) is where everyday consumers can purchase carbon offsets to offset their carbon emissions, and the Ecosystem Marketplace predicts the VCM can grow to $50B by the year 2050

Carbon mineralization takes advantage of natural chemical processes and can permanently and quickly remove carbon from the atmosphere, locking it away for thousands of years. Because it has the potential to store large amounts of carbon, it is predicted to make up an increasing share of the VCM. Below are our favorite carbon mineralization offsets.

Related: Are you interested in learning more about the best carbon mineralization offsets? Check out the full article here: “Best Carbon Offsets for Carbon Mineralization (Complete 2024 List)
Carbon Mineralization Offset CompanyQuick Facts
ClimeworksCarbon offset purchases support the practice of direct CO2 removal, where specialized machines remove CO2 directly from the air and store it in rock formations underground.
NeustarkNeustark removes CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it in recycled concrete, and they cut new CO2 emissions by reducing the use of traditional cement.
greenSandgreenSand uses Olivine rocks, which trap CO2 when they come into contact with water. For every ton of CO2 purchased, greenSand spreads 1 ton of Olivine, which can in turn absorb 1 ton of CO2.
InPlanetInPlanet accelerates the natural process of enhanced weathering by grinding and spreading silicate rocks on tropical soils. The silicate rocks capture and store carbon for thousands of years and help regenerate tropical soils by acting as a long-term fertilizer.
CarbonCureCarbonCure’s technology allows concrete producers to inject captured CO2 into fresh concrete during mixing. The CO2 then reacts with the concrete mix and is chemically converted into a mineral, where it is permanently stored for thousands of years. 
UNDOUNDO accelerates the natural process of enhanced weathering by spreading crushed basalt rock on farmlands. The rock absorbs CO2 and locks it away in mineral form for thousands of years.
HeirloomHeirloom’s technology captures CO2 through an accelerated process of natural mineralization, whereby minerals absorb CO2 from the air. The CO2 is then injected underground and stored permanently.
CarbonBuiltCarbonbuilt takes CO2 generated by industrial processes and transforms it into precast concrete.
ArcaArca is a startup speeding up the natural process of weathering. They partner with mines and transform mine tailings into giant carbon sinks capable of extracting and permanently storing large amounts of CO2.
SilicateSilicate is a startup leveraging the carbon removal potential of surplus concrete. They grind surplus concrete to dust so that it can be spread on farmlands. The crushed concrete reacts with carbonic acid in the soil to remove CO2 from the air.

How Can Carbon Mineralization Offsets Help Mitigate Climate Change

Climate change is a severe and long-term consequence of fossil fuel combustion. Carbon mineralization offsets can help mitigate climate change because they permanently eliminate fossil-fuel-derived carbon from our atmosphere which, if left untreated, can remain there for tens of thousands of years and exacerbate the negative effects of climate change.

How is Climate Change Defined

Climate change is arguably the most severe, long-term global impact of fossil fuel combustion. Every year, approximately 33 billion tons (bt) of CO2 are emitted from burning fossil fuels. The carbon found in fossil fuels reacts with oxygen in the air to produce CO2

Climate change: changes in the earth’s weather, including changes in temperature, wind patterns and rainfall, especially the increase in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere that is caused by the increase of particular gasses, especially carbon dioxide.

Oxford Dictionary

Atmospheric CO2 fuels climate change, which results in global warming. When CO2 and other air pollutants absorb sunlight and solar radiation in the atmosphere, it traps the heat and acts as an insulator for the planet. Since the Industrial Revolution, Earth’s temperature has risen a little more than 1 degree Celsius (C), or 2 degrees Fahrenheit (F). Between 1880-1980 the global temperature rose by 0.07C every 10 years. This rate has more than doubled since 1981, with a current global annual temperature rise of 0.18C, or 0.32F, for every 10 years. 

As outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, we must cut current GHG emissions by 50% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050

How Do Carbon Offsets Generally Help Mitigate Climate Change

Levels of carbon in our atmosphere that cause climate change have increased as a result of human emissions since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1750. The global average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today registers at over 400 parts per million. Carbon offsets can help prevent these levels from increasing even more.

When you hear the words “carbon offset”, think about the term “compensation”. Essentially, carbon offsets are reductions in GHG emissions that are used to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere

Carbon offsets that meet key criteria and verified project standards, are additional and permanent, and are part of projects that are carried out until the end of their lifespan have the best chance of reducing carbon emissions and therefore reducing climate change. 

When we offset CO2 we also slow the rate of global temperature rise, which in turn minimizes the effects of climate change. 

How Do Carbon Mineralization Offsets Specifically Help Mitigate Climate Change

Carbon mineralization can specifically help mitigate climate change because it eliminates atmospheric carbon, which when emitted, can remain in our atmosphere for a long period of time. Whether via underground injection, concrete, or mine tailings, the process of carbon mineralization permanently locks away CO2 for thousands of years.

What Are Better Alternatives to Carbon Mineralization Offsets

If used correctly, carbon mineralization offsets can provide environmental, economic, and social benefits beyond reducing carbon emissions. They have the potential to instigate meaningful environmental change and begin to reverse some of the effects of climate change. 

However, we can’t let this method be a guilt-free way to reduce carbon emissions. Carbon mineralization offsets must be used in conjunction with direct carbon reduction measures until the industry has time to develop, refine, and make the technology more affordable.

These reduction measures don’t have to involve drastic changes either. Actions that may seem minor can have a significant impact because those small changes add up! You can reduce your carbon footprint in three main areas of your life: household, travel, and lifestyle. 

Reduce your household carbon footprint:

Reduce your travel carbon footprint:

  • Walk or bike when possible: The most efficient ways of traveling are walking, bicycling, or taking the train. Using a bike instead of a car can reduce carbon emissions by 75%. These forms of transportation also provide lower levels of air pollution.

Reduce your lifestyle carbon footprint:

  • Switch to renewable energy sources: The six most common types of renewable energy are solar, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal, and biomass energy. They are a substitute for fossil fuels that can reduce the effects of global warming by limiting global carbon emissions and other pollutants.
  • Recycle: Recycling uses less energy and deposits less waste in landfills. Less manufacturing and transportation energy costs means fewer carbon emissions generated. Less waste in landfills means less CH4 is generated.
  • Eat less meat and dairy: Meat and dairy account for 14.5% of global GHG emissions, with beef and lamb being the most carbon-intensive. Globally, we consume much more meat than is considered sustainable, and switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet could reduce emissions. 
  • Take shorter showers: Approximately 1.2 trillion gallons of water are used each year in the United States just for showering purposes, and showering takes up about 17% of residential water usage. The amount of water consumed and the energy cost of that consumption are directly related. The less water we use the less energy we use. And the less energy we use, the less of a negative impact we have on the environment.

Because carbon mineralization offsets are an indirect way and not a direct way of reducing emissions, they alone will not be enough to reduce global carbon emissions significantly. Direct measures of emission reductions, such as reducing individual energy use and consumption, are better alternatives to carbon mineralization offsets. 

Related: Are you interested in learning why reducing your carbon footprint is so important? Check it out in this article here: “4 Main Reasons Why Reducing Your Carbon Footprint Is Important

Final Thoughts

Carbon mineralization offsets help reduce carbon emissions by locking away CO2 for thousands of years. They permanently and quickly remove CO2 from the atmosphere with low rates of carbon re-emission; however, they do not reduce your own carbon emissions, are relatively expensive, and are not yet scaled to compensate for our global emissions.

The top carbon mineralization offsets are those offered by companies whose mineralization projects are verified by recognized standards. But although they can instigate meaningful change, they should not be seen as the only solution to climate change. In the long term, they fail to reduce CO2 enough to mitigate climate change for future generations. 

When used in conjunction with direct CO2 reduction measures, carbon mineralization offsets can be much more effective. We should reduce our own carbon footprint as much as possible first, and only then choose the best mineralization offsets.

Stay impactful,

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