UT researchers aim to curb climate change

Researchers at the University of Texas study how to store carbon dioxide deep underground to mitigate climate change

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It hasn’t happened yet this year, but many of us are dreading the first 100-degree day.

According to climate researchers, local summertime temperatures could rise by three- or four degrees in the next 30 years. That could mean 30 to 40 more 100-degree days each summer.

GOING IN-DEPTH // Pollution in Texas

  • Texans are responsible for putting a large amount of pollution into the air.
  • A report from the city of Austin from 2010 says every person in Texas produces 25 metric tons of CO2 each year.
  • That means the pollution we produce is the same as burning 2,813 gallons of gas, or driving 59,524 miles.
  • To become carbon-neutral, we would need 20.5 acres of forest to eat up each person’s pollution.

With rising levels of carbon emissions seeping into the air, researchers in Austin are looking into innovative ways to take pollutants out of the air.

“We would be able to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are in the atmosphere,” said University of Texas researcher Dr. Hilary Olson, who is trying to stop global warming.

“We’re looking at scientific challenges that would enable us to store CO2, carbon dioxide, underground,” he said. “Deep underground.”

CO2 levels are on the rise in recent years. If Olson and her team are one day able to reverse the trend, the consequences of climate change may be lessened.

How it would work

This tank in a UT lab is full of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas more commonly called CO2. Researchers then pressurize the carbon dioxide inside of a pump to a pressure so great, it simulates conditions 5,000 feet below the Earth’s surface. They then pump the CO2 into samples of rock to see how it will behave.

“Rock is made up of grains, and then there’s space,” Olson said.

Researchers hope to fill that space with CO2.

“A lot of the technology that we use is really very similar to a lot of the technology we’ve been using for many years in the oil and gas business,” Olson added.

But could this plan could be applied on a large enough scale to make a difference.

“I would hope that in the next decade we would see a big change in that,” Olson said. “And I hope that with some of these new policy initiatives that we’re hearing about, that would help speed up the process.”

Leaving the air a bit cleaner for future generations.

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