East Coast Targeted for Underwater CO2 Storage

by | Jan 6, 2010

basaltformationsResearchers say buried volcanic rocks, or basalt along the coasts of New York, New Jersey and New England, and as far south as Georgia and South Carolina, might be ideal reservoirs to store carbon dioxide emitted by power plants and other industrial sources, reports Physorg.

A study released in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” outlines basalt formations on land and offshore, where scientists from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory believe are the best potential sites for carbon storage, according to Physorg.

Underground burial, or sequestration, of carbon dioxide is being studied across the country, and energy producers are taking a closer look at carbon capture and storage techniques as a way to deal with global warming.

Carbon capture and sequestration for coal-fired utilities is gaining momentum, thanks in part to support from federal and state funding. In California, for example, a proposed $1 billion carbon capture project is being studied by the state’s energy commission, and in Virginia, a coalition has applied for federal stimulus funding to cover half the $580 million needed to build a carbon-capture and storage demonstration project.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) also launched a new National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) last year to speed up the development and testing of new technologies to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal-based power plants.

Until now research in New York has focused on inland sites where power plants might store their emissions in shale, reports Physorg. Similarly, a proposed coal-fired plant in Linden, N.J. would pump liquefied CO2 offshore into sedimentary sandstone, though the proposal is thought to be controversial because of fears that the CO2 might leak, according to the article.

However, this new study targets basalt, an igneous rock, which the scientists say has significant advantages, particularly undersea, and is found along the East Coast in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, reports Physorg.

Previous research by Lamont scientists and others shows that carbon dioxide injected into basalt will eventually turn it into a solid mineral resembling limestone, reports Physorg.

The formation of the carbonate mineral is expected to significantly decrease the risk of leakage, a major concern with previous CCS proposals that looked at shale and sandstone for carbon storage, reports SolveClimate.com.

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

Other areas of basalt have been identified along the Appalachians with the largest mass extending offshore of Georgia and South Carolina, as well as inland, according to Physorg.

Several pilot projects are underway to inject CO2 into basalt to see how successfully it stores the greenhouse gas, including off the coast of Oregon and beneath Iceland, reports Scientific American.

The risk of leakage from undersea storage is low since the overlying ocean forms a second barrier of protection for the injected greenhouse gas, reports Scientific American. The article cites as an example the Sleipner natural gas project in the North Sea, which has stored more than 10 million metric tons of CO2 for more than a decade.

Just one of the formations identified in the new study, off the coast of New Jersey could store as much as 1 billion metric tons of CO2, according to the article, but the key will be determining that the CO2 can be safely stored for the long-term, reports Scientific American.

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