The environmental controls on efficiency of enhanced rock weathering in soils
Enhanced rock weathering (ERW) in soils is a promising carbon removal technology, but the realistically achievable efficiency, controlled primarily by in situ weathering rates of the applied rocks, is highly uncertain. Here we explored the impacts of coupled biogeochemical and transport processes and a set of primary environmental and operational controls, using forsterite as a proxy mineral in soils and a multiphase multi-component reactive transport model considering microbe-mediated reactions. For a onetime forsterite application of ~ 16 kg/m2, complete weathering within five years can be achieved, giving an equivalent carbon removal rate of ~ 2.3 kgCO2/m2/yr. However, the rate is highly variable based on site-specific conditions. We showed that the in situ weathering rate can be enhanced by conditions and operations that maintain high CO2 availability via effective transport of atmospheric CO2 (e.g. in well-drained soils) and/or sufficient biogenic CO2 supply (e.g. stimulated plant–microbe processes). Our results further highlight that the effect of increasing surface area on weathering rate can be significant—so that the energy penalty of reducing the grain size may be justified—only when CO2 supply is nonlimiting. Therefore, for ERW practices to be effective, siting and engineering design (e.g. optimal grain size) need to be co-optimized.