HOW OMAN'S ROCKS could help save the planet...................

100 MILLIONS YEARS : The country's carbon capturing formations, consisting largely of a rock called periidottie, are-

In a slice of oceanic crust and the mantle layer below it - that was thrust up on land by tectonic forces and nearly 100 million years ago.

Erosion has resulted in a patchy zone about 200 miles along, up to 25 miles wide and several miles thick in the northern part of the country, including in the outskirts of Ibra, a dusty island city of 50,000.

Even the bustling capital Muscat, on the Gulf of Oman, has a pocked of peridotite practically overlooking Sultan Qaboos bin Said's palace.

Peridotite normally is miles below the earth's surface. Dr.Peter B. Keleman, a Columbia University geologist, said that when the rocks are exposed to air or water, as they are in Oman, they are like a-

Giant battery with a lot of chemical potential : ''They're really, really far from equilibrium with the atmosphere and surface water,'' he said.

The rocks are so extensive, Dr. Kelemen said, that if it was somehow possible to fully use them they could store hundreds of years of carbon dioxide emissions.

More realistically, he said, Oman could store at least a billions tons of carbon dioxide annually.

[Current yearly worldwide emissions are close to 40 billion tons].

While the formations in Oman are special, they are not unique. Similar though smaller ones are found in Northern California, Papua New Guinea and Albania, among other places.

Dr. Kelemen first came to Oman in the 1990s, as the thrust-up rocks were one of the best sites in the world to study what was then his area of research, the formation and structure of the earth's crust.

He had noticed the carbonate veins but thought they must be millions of years old.

''There was a feeling that carbon mineralization was really slow and not worth thinking about,'' he said.

But in 2007, he had some of the carbonate dated. Almost of it was less than 50,000 years old, suggesting that the mineralization process was actually much faster.

''So then i said, 'O.K.. this is pretty cool,'' Dr. Kelemen said.

Since then, in addition to continuing his crust research, he has studied the prospects for harnessing the mineralization process among other things, learning about the water chemistry-

Which has changed as the water flows through the rocks and measuring the actual uptake of carbon dioxide from the air in certain spots.

For much of the decade, he has also led a multinational effort to drill bore holes in the rocks, a $4 million project that is only partly related to carbon capture.

In March, the drilling was nearing completion,with scientists and technicians sending instruments down the holes, which are up to 1,300 feet deep, to better characterize the rock layers.     

The Honor and Serving of the Latest Operational Research on Planet Earth, Geology and Technologies continues to Part 2.


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