(Bloomberg) -- The United Arab Emirates kicked off a project to suck carbon directly from the air and convert it into rock to permanently trap the climate-changing pollutant.

Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.’s pilot project will mix the carbon with seawater and inject it into the Hajar Mountains, Chief Technology Officer Sophie Hildebrand said on a recent visit to the site in the emirate of Fujairah. The solution will begin to turn into rock in the crevasses and nooks over a period of weeks, she said.

The novel technology is the latest example of the UAE’s push to cut emissions with a target for net zero by the middle of the century. The country is also under scrutiny to illustrate its climate credentials as host of the COP28 conference, for which it has drawn criticism because of oil’s central role in the economy.

The UAE is leaning heavily on carbon capture to help reduce its net emissions footprint. The technology has been backed by others in the oil industry, including Exxon Mobil Corp., but critics have said it’s costly and will be difficult to deploy at the scale needed to reduce emissions. 

That isn’t deterring the Middle Eastern country. In the Fujairah pilot project, Omani start-up 44.01 — which is running the mineralization process — aims to begin injecting the carbon-seawater mix into a test well in the next few weeks, likely coinciding with COP28, Chief Technical Officer Ehab Tasfai said. Most of that will change to rock in three to four months, Adnoc’s Hildebrand said.

“The volume of rock here would have the potential to easily sequester all of the carbon dioxide in the UAE,” she said. Hildebrand declined to confirm how much Adnoc is spending on the project, saying that it’s meant to test the technology before considering a full-scale implementation.

Suction Fan

44.01 developed the tech to trap carbon in the peridotite rock, identified by white veins of minerals permeating black stone, that’s found along UAE and Oman’s craggy coastline.

On the site sits a suction fan that makes up the bulk of the direct-air capture unit that pulls CO2 from the air. The gas is stored in a vertical cylindrical tank until it can be mixed with seawater. Nearby a red pump atop a 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) deep well will inject the solution into crevasses in the rock below, Tasfai said.

The UAE is counting on a big contribution from so-called negative emissions to help meet its climate goals, Minister of Climate Change & Environment Mariam Almheiri said at a conference last week. More than 200 million tons of annual greenhouse gases need to be slashed by 2050 to meet the net zero target. On top, direct-air capture and mangrove forests will have to pull another 13 million tons of CO2 per year from the atmosphere, according to a ministry presentation.

Adnoc itself plans to capture 10 million tons of CO2 annually by 2030. It has announced projects including at natural gas fields. But the initiatives will only stop a fraction of the 24 million tons of carbon the company produces annually at its oil and gas producing operations.

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