Nornickel studies waste rock’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide

Nornickel studies waste rock’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide

December 22, 2022

Analysis of the elemental composition of the collected samples will be carried out by a specialized research institute.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Nornickel has set an ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. One way to achieve this goal is to study how the rock absorbs greenhouse gases and develop a methodology to account for the carbon units captured.

In 2021, Nornickel mined 41.2 million tons of ore. In the process of its enrichment, waste rock is formed – tailings: this is a fraction of less than 0.4 millimeters, similar to fine sand, which is stored in special tailings dumps.

By 2030, the volume of ore mining and processing will reach 18 million tons per year, so the construction of the third field of the Lebyazhye tailing dump has been launched

“Such a rock contains silica and magnesium oxide, which are capable of absorbing carbon dioxide when exposed to air for a long time. When interacting with water and air, carbon dioxide binds with minerals and metals that are present in the composition of such rocks, resulting in the formation of carbonates. This process is called mineralization. As a result, CO2 (carbon monoxide, or carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere passes into secondary minerals in the form of carbonate”, the company explained.

Drilling and sampling tailings for mineralization studies

According to Nornickel’s environmental strategy, greenhouse gas emissions from the first and second scopes – direct emissions from production and indirect emissions from energy consumption – should be reduced by 25 percent by 2028: from 10.3 million tons per year to 7.7 million tons.

Taking into account the company’s large production volumes, the potential for CO2 absorption from the atmosphere by the waste rock can reach several million tons per year. The Nornickel’s Technological Innovation Department has begun assessing this potential. Department specialists collected 200 samples to study the processes of natural and artificial mineralization of waste rock. Then the profile research institute will analyze the mineralogical and elemental composition of the collected samples and evaluate the content of absorbed CO2.

In addition, the company, together with scientists, is developing a technology for artificial tailings mineralization. It can be used at the company’s production sites: for example, it will be possible to pass flue gases from thermal power plants or process gases from melting furnaces, which also contain CO2, through the pulp. This will significantly increase the potential for absorption of greenhouse gases.

It should be reminded that in Norilsk the company is implementing the largest environmental project in Russia – the Sulfur Program. In 2023, Nornickel will continue financing key projects. We also reported on the results of the Big Scientific Expedition, a joint project between Nornickel and the Academy of Sciences, which they decided to continue.

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Text: Anzhelika Stepanova, Photo: Nikolay Shchipko and Nornickel press service

December 22, 2022

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