Scientists target American East Coast rocks for locking away CO2

January 5th, 2010 - 4:43 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, January 5 (ANI): In a new study, scientists have said that buried volcanic rocks along the heavily populated coasts of New York, New Jersey and New England, as well as further south, might be ideal reservoirs to lock away carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by power plants and other industrial sources.

The study, by scientists from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, outlines formations on land as well as offshore as the best potential sites to lock away CO2.

Previous research by Lamont scientists and others shows that carbon dioxide injected into basalt undergoes natural chemical reactions that will eventually turn it into a solid mineral resembling limestone.

If the process were made to work on a large scale, this would help obviate the danger of leaks.

The study’s authors, led by geophysicist David S. Goldberg, used existing research to outline more possible basalt underwater, including four areas of more than 1,000 square kilometers each, off northern New Jersey, Long Island and Massachusetts.

A smaller patch appears to lie more or less under the beach of New Jersey’s Sandy Hook, peninsula, opposite New York’s harbor and not far from the proposed plant in Linden.

Goldberg said that the undersea formations are potentially most useful, for several reasons.

For one, they are deeper-an important factor, since CO2 pressurized into a liquid would have to be placed at least 2,500 feet below the surface for natural pressure to keep it from reverting to a gas and potentially then making its way back to the surface.

The basalts on land are relatively shallow, but those at sea are covered not only by water, but hundreds or thousands of feet of sediment, and appear to extend far below the seabed.

In addition to providing pressure, sediments on top would form impermeable caps, according to Goldberg.

The basalts are thought to contain porous, rubbly layers with plenty of interstices where CO2 could fit, simply by displacing seawater.

The scientists estimate that just the small Sandy Hook basin may contain about seven cubic kilometers of the rock, with enough pore space to hold close to a billion tons of CO2.

“The basalt itself is very reactive, and in the end, you make limestone,” said coauthor Dennis Kent, who is also at Rutgers University. “It’s the ultimate repository,” he added.
The study paper suggests a half-dozen spots around New York including the Sandy Hook area, and three off South Carolina, to start with. (ANI)

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