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Climate Change - digesting the problem PDF Print E-mail
Written by david brunnen   
Thursday, 24 January 2008 09:26
In recent times there’s has been a very sensible focus on slowing down the growth of CO2 emissions – but rather less progress on what to do about the billions of tonnes of the stuff that we’ve already loaded into the atmosphere.

Nature has an answer in a process that evolved in primeval times when the CO2 concentrations were even greater. It resulted in the excess air-borne CO2 providing the building blocks for mountains – a solid form of carbonate that we now call dolomite.
Nature’s answer is not so very far removed from the digestive properties of pro-biotic yoghurt.

selfdefenceThanks to mass-market promotion we are all familiar with ‘friendly bacteria’ and it is but a small step to understand that we are all, in effect, bio-reactors.

Bio-reactors are used all over the world to treat waste, to clean up polluted soil, to improve water quality, and to offset some of the more offensive smells that emanate from petrochemical production sites.  Operators frequently moan about dealing with the harmless but bulky sludge that comes out of the bottoms of their bio-reactors.  Much of this is carbonate – and potentially worth up to $20/tonne in off-set currency.

There are few better places in the world to observe the natural version of this pro-biotic process than in the murky waters of the Coorong Distil lakes south of Adelaide, Australia.
biotic

Here, in Pellet lake, the annual cycle of increasing salinity and it’s progress towards (but not quite) a dead sea, provides a brilliant (and quantifiable) example of how atmospheric CO2 is absorbed and sequestered – a process enabled by ‘friendly bacteria’ – and resulting in the coast-line of south Australia gradually growing outwards, built on the layers of sediment of Magnesium Calcium Carbonate – dolomite.

Can this be replicated and scaled up to meet the challenge of climate change ?   We think so – not least because bio-reactor technology has come on in leaps and bounds over the past 10 years. 

hydratedSamples of the Australian waters have been brought back to the UK and the process observed in the laboratory. 

If we think of replicating the effect in terms of a number of similar sized lakes – but with controls to boost the cycle time to 2 months instead of a year – then it is easy to find enough non-agricultural space to replicate the CO2  sequestration performance of a decent-sized rain-forest.  But rather more exciting is the prospect of designing a variety of bio-reactors for urban use – close to sources of pollution and in areas where air quality has the greatest impact on society.

The climate change challenge will not be solved by any single solution.  Microbial Dolomite production can make a significant and quantifiable contribution – and one that looks viable in terms of carbon off-set payments.   The cost of further research is, in the context the scale of the opportunity, miniscule and the next stage of research can be completed within 12 months.  The laboratory-based proof of concept tells us that this is more than a healthy gut instinct.  From an investment viewpoint – we can make mountains out of microbes.
To find out more about the work of Microbial Dolomite Global Ltd, please contact our UK head office.
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