Several important challenges are at stake in a successful realisation of olivine projects. In some cases barriers have to be removed first and will be considered as opportunity.
It is not easy and therefor one of the most important challenges to communicate and convey a solution which from a technological point of view in the twenty-first century is not really innovative. Press contacts, presentations, newsletters and a clear website are essential conditions for effective public relations.
There is no current business model for carbon dioxide removal. The main barrier to the most simple and potentially large scale deployment of olivine weathering is therefor severe. Emissions trade systems have been designed and set in motion. The ETS system provides no independent profit mechanism for simply removing CO2 that is already in the atmosphere. The current market price is too low in EU interventions are considered however.
Before the large scale application of olivine becomes realistic expensive pilot projects are required to enable further applied research and as the ‘proof of the pudding’. Measurement of expected effects and side effects (pleasant and unpleasant) is often an additional challenge.
There exist a lot of misunderstanding about the weathering rate of olivine. Rates measured in laboratoria are substantially lower than those in natural circumstances. To prove this is not an easy job.
The technology is ‘high tech’ and not patentable; therefor industrial investors are not keen to pump money in it not being assured of a unique use of such applications.
The application of olivine has only an effect on worldwide CO2-levels when it is used on a very large scale, This required scale of operation may be difficult in countries without an adequate logistical infrastructure (e.g. road, rail, water and transfer facilities). Large application areas (land and or water) should be made available, local absence of olivine will cause additional transport.
A ‘clean working protocol’ is required before the authorities release any permission for a large scale implementation on land and in water. Environmental regulations have always been designed for the existing reality.
Side effects of the use of olivine, such as the Nickel content of this mineral will not be permitted by the authorities when used in agricultural areas. From case to case it must be considered whether this is a real impediment or just a bureaucratic consequence of the local laws and regulations. In the Netherlands we expect a change of this restriction.
Compared with other methods the olivine approach has a number of unique advantages.
For a tabular comparison of carbon dioxide methods see this table.
It is proven since billions of years, this was the main way nature took care of the CO2 balance in the atmosphere.
It can be done on a very large and global scale; demonstrations can be done on small scale and can be up-scaled infinitely.
It does not require complex, capital- and energy-intensive technologies.
By its nature the mining. milling, transport and spreading needs energy and produces CO2 also (far less compared with the CO2 removal objective).
The raw material olivine is abundantly available on all continents and mining sometimes does not require additional or new infrastructure as use can be made of existing nickel, magnesite, or chromite mines.
The process does not result in any harmful byproduct to the contrary.
However, even though the research into large scale deployment of Olivine Weathering depends on government initiatives, there are opportunities for market-based initiatives!