From: Jeremy Hance, Mongabay
Published January 5, 2010 07:55 AM

Underwater rocks could be used for massive carbon storage on America's East Coast

Considering it is unlikely that global carbon emissions will start dropping anytime soon, researchers are beginning to look at other methods to combat climate change. One of these is to hook polluting power plants up to massive carbon sinks where instead of the carbon going into the atmosphere it would be stored away in rocks. The process is known as carbon capture and sequestration or CCS. But before one can even debate the pros and cons of setting up CCS, scientists must see if high-quality sites exist.

Today, researchers writing in the Proceedings of National Academy of Science (PNAS) have announced a number of locations in the East Coast of the United States that appear prime for CCS. The potential sites—off Long Island, Massachusetts, and northern New Jersey—are deep under the sea bed in basalt rock, which researchers say has many advantages over other rocks, such as sandstone.


"We would need to drill them to see where we’re at," said Douglas S. Goldberg, lead author and geophysicist at Rutgers University, in a press release. "But we could potentially do deep burial here. The coast makes sense. That’s where people are. That’s where power plants are needed. And by going offshore, you can reduce risks."

The biggest concern with such sequestration methods is leakage of CO2, but researchers say that these sites should largely mitigate that risk. Not only are tthe sites deep underwater, but they are also covered over by hundreds to thousands of feet of sediment, both barriers to leakage. The gas would be pumped into the basalt, filling in the rock's gaps by displacing sea water.

"The basalt itself is very reactive, and in the end, you make limestone," said coauthor Dennis Kent, also of Rutgers University, in a press release. "It’s the ultimate repository."

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